AG Deal With Partners Filed In Court: Restricts Growth, Costs

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley on Tuesday reached an agreement with Partners HealthCare that she says will alter the hospital network’s negotiating power for years to come.

The deal would resolve an antitrust investigation by the attorney general’s office and ultimately allow Partners to acquire South Shore Hospital.

“Our office was the first to shine a light on the ability of Partners to charge higher prices based on its negotiating power,” Coakley said in a statement. “Today’s resolution is the first action of its kind to directly address that market dysfunction.”

But many in the health care industry say they’re frustrated and angry about the process.

The Rev. Burns Stanfield, president of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, says the group is disappointed the agreement bypassed the state’s Health Policy Commission

“A proper review would need to have the agreement available before it is submitted to the judge, and for the Health Policy Commission to be invited to weigh in,” he said.

Jamie Katz, senior vice president at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was part of a coalition of hospitals that called for a public review of the agreement before it was filed in court.

“The fact that there is a court filing without notice in advance is not what we wanted,” Katz said. “But we hope the AG will provide process and we will look at it closely.”

Coakley says she could not discuss the deal before filing because of ongoing negotiations with Partners.

Partners spokesperson Rich Copp says the filing represents “another important step in the public process.”

“This agreement supports our vision to provide more coordinated patient care, delivered closer to patients’ homes in lower cost settings,” Copp said. “And over the course of the coming days, we’ll work with the attorney general and the court to finalize the agreement.”

The proposal — which needs court approval — would prevent Partners from contracting with affiliate physician groups that are not part of its owned hospital for 10 years. It would also cap health care costs at the rate of inflation across the entire Partners network through 2020, and block further expansion in eastern Massachusetts, including Worcester County, for seven years. (See all the conditions here.)

The agreement allows for a hearing by a judge, and parties who don’t like the deal may be able to file briefs and present evidence about health care market size and clout.

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  • http://byrondennis.typepad.com/theabcsofmedicare/ Dennis Byron

    “The proposal… would prevent Partners from contracting with affiliate physician groups that are not part of its owned hospital for 10 years.” Now I understand Atrius’ objection. It doesn’t want to wait a decade.

  • W.tom

    Just like casino deal, Coakley shuts out public.

  • Lawrence

    Thanks Martha. You were in a position to stop this monopoly but choose not to.

    • http://byrondennis.typepad.com/theabcsofmedicare/ Dennis Byron

      Martha

      Some one must think you have a lot of power :)

      • Lawrence

        Martha said she reached an agreement with Partners. She is the Attorney General. She obviously sits in a government seat with the power to make these deals.

        Are you contesting that she has no power to effect this deal?

        • http://byrondennis.typepad.com/theabcsofmedicare/ Dennis Byron

          Sorry from your initial comment I thought you were referring to Martha Bebinger.

          But now that I understand you, no Coakely could not do anymore than she did (nor did she do much). First, there is no monopoly by anyone’s definition of the word. Second, Coakley would have no say over a monopoly if it did exist. The AG is involved basically because Mass General is a charity–and apparently because of some dubious later laws that Mass General has chosen not to fight in a court case it would almost certainly win if it chose to fight it.