In 1994, two eminent Boston hospitals, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, merged. Officials hailed it as a new era for integrated, high-quality care. The state’s secretary of health and human services signed off on the merger without a public hearing, with the blessing of Republican governor William Weld.
The merged hospital entity, called Partners HealthCare, immediately went about raising rates for insurers. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s largest private insurer, wanted to fight — in 2000, at a gathering of the company’s executives, some suggested refusing to pay the higher fees. But executive Peter Meade delivered a cold slap of reality: “Excuse me, did anyone here save anyone’s life today? We are a successful business up against people that save people’s lives. It’s not a fair fight.”