CHICAGO — Michigan’s Trinity Health and Pennsylvania’s Catholic Health East, two of the country’ largest Catholic health care systems, announced Wednesday plans to merge.

The systems signed a letter of intent that would create a system with 82 hospitals spanning 21 states, according to a press releasing announcing the merger. Financial details were not disclosed.

The new system would have operating revenues of $13.3 billion annually, officials said.

A series of mergers and acquisitions have swept across the non-profit health care sector over the past few years as providers look to navigate fiscal challenges as well as looming requirements in the new federal health care law. The deal comes after Trinity acquired Mercy Health System and Loyola University Health System in Chicago.

“To serve people best in today’s health care environment, health systems must have ready access to resources and ideas across the broad spectrum of care, and this consolidation would help us achieve that goal with an exceptional national network,” Joseph Swedish, president and CEO of Trinity, said in a statement.

The merger would also help the systems address the “rapidly changing health care environment” that focuses more on preventative care and more coordinated care, the release said.

Moody’s Investors Service rates Newtown Square, Pa.-based Catholic Health East A2. Standard & Poor’s rates it A and Fitch Ratings A-plus. It operates 35 acute-care hospitals, as well as four long-term acute-care hospitals, 26 freestanding care facilities as well as dozens of other facilities in 11 states.

Novi, Mich.-based Trinity is rated double-A with stable outlook by all three rating agencies. It has $3.1 billion of outstanding debt and reported more than $7.4 billion in unrestricted revenue in fiscal 2011. Trinity is the 10th largest system in the nation and the fourth largest Catholic system. It operates 47 acute-care hospitals as well as other facilities in 10 states.

The providers said they hope to close the deal by the spring.

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