AUGUSTA, Maine — A Massachusetts-based insurance company has announced plans to buy a health care company and give the companies shares of its stock.
The purchase would be the largest single investment by a Massachusetts health care organization since the state’s landmark law requiring the establishment of state-run health insurance in 1992.
Massachusetts Health Care is one of several insurers to announce deals in recent weeks.
Last month, Anthem announced a merger with UnitedHealth Group, while the insurance giant announced plans for a sale of its U.S. operations.
The announcement by Massachusetts Health Care was made Friday, a day after Anthem and UnitedHealth announced a $1.1 billion sale of their U.K. operations and announced plans Wednesday to buy out the insurer.
“The Massachusetts Health Insurance Company (MHCI) has announced a strategic partnership with United Health Group to transform and build upon the company’s strong performance and outstanding health care operations in Massachusetts,” the company said in a statement.
“The new management team will be responsible for a substantial portion of the company and we will continue to grow and expand as a business.
We look forward to continuing our collaboration with MHCI.”
UnitedHealth, which owns Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, announced plans in April to sell off parts of its business in New England and New York, and to focus on selling health care in Canada.
Anthem is also a minority investor in MHCi, which is owned by UnitedHealth.MHCi and Anthem declined to comment.
A deal between the two companies could mean a massive shift for the health care industry in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts health plan that has the most money in its coffers has had to grapple with declining enrollment in recent years, as health insurance has become more expensive for many people.
In the state that was among the first to adopt the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the law has helped create the biggest insurers in the nation, which have been among the state leaders in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.
The state is now one of five states that require employers to provide health insurance, and more than 60 percent of Massachusetts workers have health insurance.MHSI has been under pressure to change its model.
Anthem and other insurers have said they need to offer more comprehensive health care to attract new customers and to attract people to join their plans.
A recent study by the state health care board found that about 6,400 people in Massachusetts have died from coronaviruses since March, when the state first began requiring health insurance companies to offer coverage.
The study also found that a high proportion of the deaths were related to COVID-19, a new virus that has sickened more than 500 people in the United States.
The Massachusetts Medical Society has warned that the state may be on track to see about 30,000 additional COVID deaths by 2019, more than double the state average of about 5,500.
The Massachusetts health system has had a difficult time meeting that number.
In recent months, enrollment in its state-managed plan has been declining and the number of COVID patients is at an all-time high.
MHSI said last month that it would have to raise premiums by about 20 percent to keep its enrollment up.
The health insurer said that it expects to need about $300 million in additional federal funding over the next year to pay for the cost of treating and treating COVID.