HealthPartners and Park Nicollet Health Services officially joined forces Tuesday, announcing the election of a single consumer-governed board and completing the merger of two Twin Cities health care giants.

The combined entity, which will operate under the HealthPartners name, is now the state's second-largest hospital system behind the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. It has 1.4 million medical and dental members, 20,000 employees, 1,500 doctors and more than 1 million patients, mostly in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

For patients and members, little will change. HealthPartners and Park Nicollet clinics will continue to operate under their current names, and patients of either clinic system will have the same access and coverage that they did before, the group said.

The merger will help the new entity control costs while still providing members and patients with total-care options, the group said.

HealthPartners said the decision to merge "positions us strategically for the future at a time when health care is more dynamic than ever. Our missions were very much in sync, and by combining, we'll have more capabilities and resources to change health care for the better. We're going to make care more effective, we're going to make it more affordable and we're going to improve the experience of receiving care."

The two nonprofits signed an agreement of joint operations Aug. 30. Keith Halleland, a Minneapolis health care attorney not involved in the deal, said then that the merger wasn't done because either system was in financial trouble but was about consolidating providers, "which is going to be a trend in this area of health reform."

The move was approved by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Justice Department, which examined how it would affect health care pricing and competition in the Upper Midwest.

The merger brings together under one figurative roof two of the Twin Cities' premier hospitals -- Regions in St. Paul and Methodist in St. Louis Park. HealthPartners brings 44 primary care clinics, 18 urgent-care clinics and 20 dental clinics to the mix, while Park Nicollet brings lucrative specialty clinics, including the Frauenshuh Cancer Center and the Melrose Institute for eating disorders, plus 26 clinics.

No money changed hands in the merger and no layoffs are expected, the group said. The group will be headquartered in Bloomington.

Pat Pheifer • 952-746-3284