Aetna (NYSE: AET) and Banner Health teamed up and created a jointly owned health plan company, Banner | Aetna, that will focus on improving quality, affordability and the patient experience.

The partnership will combine Banner’s care management capabilities and high-quality facilities, providers and delivery system with Aetna’s leading health plan expertise, cutting-edge analytics and health information technology.

Together, they will provide health coverage to employers and their employees in Maricopa and Pinal counties with plans for future statewide expansion.

This partnership, which builds upon the success of Aetna and Banner’s five-year Accountable Care Organization (ACO) relationship, previously announced in 2011, strengthens the companies’ shared commitment to reward value over volume of care for the delivery of better outcomes and lower health care costs.

The new health plan will focus on the consumer experience by combining fully integrated care teams, health insurance and administrative services, with a goal of eliminating redundancies in care as well as administrative hassles.

Savings achieved by streamlining care and services will be passed on to consumers and employers through lower premiums.

“We are committed to finding new ways to deliver more efficient and effective care for our members in Arizona and across the country,” said Gary Loveman, Aetna’s executive vice president and president of Consumer Health and Services. “Together, Aetna and Banner are rethinking, reimagining and redefining the health care model to reward better outcomes and create healthier days for our customers.”

New commercial products for fully insured and self-insured customers in Maricopa and Pinal counties will be available beginning January 1, 2017.

Aetna members who are currently part of the Aetna Whole Health Network ACO plans will have the opportunity to transition into plans offered through the new partnership.

“When payers and providers come together in this kind of genuine collaboration—with a joint approach to serving members and advancing population health– then we have a rare opportunity to reinvent what health care will look like tomorrow,” said Peter S. Fine, president and CEO of Banner Health. “This joint venture is a bold move in that direction.”

This new partnership will enable high quality and integrated care for Aetna members by providing access to the Banner Health Network, which includes more than 900 primary care physicians and more than 5,800 specialists with access to more than 125 urgent care centers, as well as 14 hospitals, nine health centers and 11 emergency centers.

Doctors within the network will work hand-in-hand to provide the highest level of care coordination which will lead to better patient satisfaction and improved health outcomes. Aetna and Banner will change the health care experience for Arizona residents by:

  • Streamlining customer service interactions by linking Aetna’s secure member site to Banner’s patient portal, enabling members to find information on their plan, providers, schedule appointments, view claim histories and view lab and test results
  • Providing hassle-free access to care through a Member Experience Center (MEC), a 24-hour phone line managed by local Banner nurses
  • Increasing affordability by providing access to Arizona’s most comprehensive health care provider, with hospitals, health centers, physician clinics and other services in neighborhoods across Maricopa and Pinal counties.

“Through the Aetna Whole Health-Banner Health Network ACO partnership, we have achieved a shared total savings of more than $9.9 million to date for members and customers in Arizona,” said Tom Grote, president of Aetna’s Arizona market. “By taking this next step with Banner, we will be able to reinvent the consumer health care experience while delivering more affordability to our customers and plan sponsors in Maricopa and Pinal counties.”

This shared commitment with Banner will reward the value of care over volume of care, which results in better outcomes and lower costs for customers. Results from the Aetna and Banner Health Network ACO partnership have shown significant clinical improvements, including:

  • A 24 percent decrease in avoidable surgery admissions
  • A 4 percent increase in generic prescribing
  • An 11.5 percent overall reduction in medical costs
  • More than $2.6 million in fully insured savings in 2015

“The vision of Banner | Aetna is to help light a path to high-quality medical care and health management at an affordable price,” said Chuck Lehn, executive vice president of strategic growth for Banner. “We look forward to expanding this vision so that Arizonans statewide have access to care and coverage under this plan. This is going to be a great option for employers and their individual members, too.”

The partnership with Banner is Aetna’s third joint venture with a nationally recognized health system, as it moves 75 percent of its contracts to value-based care models by 2020. Currently, Banner provides nearly four million care interactions in Maricopa County annually. Aetna provides health care benefits to approximately 380,000 commercial members in the Greater Phoenix area.