Globe Scoop: Health Commission To Advise Against Partners Expansion

Have we entered a new era of tough hospital oversight?

That’s one possible takeaway from a Boston Globe report today that says the state’s new Health Policy Commission will — in a “a rare rebuke” — advise against an ambitious expansion plan by hospital system Partners Healthcare. The proposed acquisition of South Shore Hospital by Partners would “push up patients’ costs and stifle medical care competition in the region,” the Globe reports.

More from the story, by Rob Weisman:

partners

A report by the year-old Massachusetts Health Policy Commission details what might happen if Partners is allowed to acquire the 378-bed Weymouth hospital and a Partners-owned physicians group absorbs Harbor Medical Associates, which has 65 doctors on the South Shore.

It concludes Partners’ South Shore moves would not only increase premiums for consumers and employers and weaken rival providers, but also threaten the state’s ability to hit its overall target for holding down medical spending, according to several people briefed on the findings. Those people spoke on condition of anonymity because the report is not yet public.

The commission, created under the state’s 2012 cost containment law, lacks the authority to block Partners’ moves, but its findings come at a critical time for other regulators who do have that power.

Partners spokesperson Rich Copp said his organization had not yet seen copy of the Commission report, which he stressed is “preliminary.”

But he said: “This preliminary report creates an opportunity to begin a meaningful dialogue with the Health Policy Commission around our vision to reduce health care costs.” In support of the Partners acquisition plan, Copp added: “Our proposal will improve the care that patients in Southeastern Massachusetts will receive as we invest in primary care and electronic medical records, resulting in more coordinated, cost-effective care.”

In May, we reported that Partners’ South Shore plan had raised red flags with the Health Commission, an independent agency created under the 2012 Massachusetts law aimed at containing health costs:

“Given Partners’ size and high costs, an expansion of that system to include South Shore Hospital, a large, high-cost community hospital, is likely to have a significant impact on the Commonwealth’s ability to meet its health care cost growth goals, and on the competitive market,” the HPC said in a news release.

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