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UC Irvine and MemorialCare Health System agree to partner, not merge

Amid growing healthcare consolidation as Obamacare rolls out, UC Irvine and MemorialCare Health System have agreed to a partnership deal.

The UC Board of Regents said Wednesday it has approved an affiliation between UC Irvine Health and MemorialCare, two major hospital systems in Southern California. It's not a merger and both will remain independent.

In California and nationwide, many hospitals and physician groups are joining forces to improve their negotiating clout with employers and insurers. In particular, insurance companies have been narrowing their provider networks to hold down costs and big health systems don't want to be left out.

Doctors and hospitals are also looking to collaborate more in response to changes under the federal Affordable Care Act that reward coordinated care.

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"This affiliation demonstrates a steadfast commitment to integrated delivery of patient care, which is essential to providing excellent quality care while reducing costs," said Barry Arbuckle, chief executive of MemorialCare Health System.

UC Irvine and MemorialCare said their partnership will start with opening new primary-care health centers. They said these centers will be staffed by UC Irvine primary-care physicians and aim to serve communities that are lacking in medical services.

UC Irvine Medical Center is a 412-bed hospital and serves as the primary teaching hospital for the UC Irvine School of Medicine.

MemorialCare, a nonprofit health system, has six hospitals and about 3,000 affiliated physicians. It includes Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children's Hospital.

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