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D-H, Partners Create N.H. Employer Product

Concord — New Hampshire employers shopping for health insurance will have a new option in December thanks to a new partnership among the state’s two largest health systems and one of its major insurers.

Officials with Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Elliot Health System and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care of New England on Monday announced the creation of ElevateHealth, which will feature a smaller network of providers than Harvard Pilgrim’s current network for employer-sponsored plans but premiums that are at least 10 percent lower.

Officials cast their collaboration as a departure from current health care delivery and payment models that reward volume instead of value and said their focus on care coordination — helping patients navigate the system more efficiently — will improve outcomes.

“There’s a lot of debate around health care, and I think we’re all resolved to be part of the solution,” said Doug Dean of Elliot Health System. “We see the local community — people in positions like ours and the business community locally — to be the best ones to design a health care delivery system that’s right for New Hampshire.”

Members will be assigned a care coordinator who will serve as a health and wellness advocate, connecting with patients before and after appointments and serving as a link to providers. Innovative approaches such as Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s focus on shared decision-making will be spread to other providers, and the partners will share information, including claims data from Harvard Pilgrim.

In addition to the two partner hospitals, the ElevateHealth network will include Cheshire Medical Center, New London Hospital, Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, Derry Medical Center and their affiliated physicians. Officials said they hope to expand that network in the future.

“New Hampshire employers know better than anyone that the health system we have today is unsustainable,” Dr. James Weinstein, CEO and president of the Lebanon-based Dartmouth-Hitchcock system, said in a statement. “They want their employees and their families to have access to great health care, but at a cost they can afford. Our three organizations, with a shared focus on population health and coordinated, high-quality care, are committed to providing an option that gives the greatest access at the lowest cost, while offering a higher level of care delivery and customer service.”

Officials would not estimate how many people they hope to enroll but said Harvard Pilgrim currently covers 145,000 people in employer-sponsored plans across New Hampshire.

Harvard Pilgrim spokeswoman Joan Fallon said providers are not being dropped from existing plans. The initial focus of the ElevateHealth initiative is “primarily” in the Interstate 93/Route 3 corridor , she said, with the idea of expanding the network over time, she said.

“Our goal is to give employers choice,” Fallon said. “We encourage employers to offer ElevateHealth alongside one of our full-network products, so the employee has the choice.”

One business owner who attended the announcement, Chuck Rolecek, said he is eager to learn more.

Rolecek, who owns the Hanover Street Chop House in Manchester, said he is tired of switching insurance companies almost every year. He used to have Harvard Pilgrim and would consider switching back.

“Anytime they say lower cost and they don’t say reduction in quality, your ears really perk up, because usually there’s a trade-off,” he said. “To have something with some consistency would be really great.”

Eric Schultz of Harvard Pilgrim said ElevateHealth won’t offer individual plans initially but likely will do so in the future. Those plans would then compete with the offerings of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield that will be sold through the online markets required by the federal Affordable Care Act.

For now, only Anthem will offer plans through the new markets, or exchanges, when enrollment begins Oct. 1, but Harvard Pilgrim plans to be a player in 2015.