Judge strikes down Partners deal in Massachusetts

Partners Healthcare's attempt to acquire three hospitals in the Boston area has apparently come to an end.

A state judge has ruled against allowing the transaction to go through, believing that doing so would concentrate monopoly power within Partners.

The decision is a rare one, with the judge, Janet L. Sanders, overruling a deal brokered between Partners and former Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. Sanders had declared that there were not enough safeguards in the deal to ensure that Partners would not increase prices, and therefore the cost of healthcare in the area, the Boston Globe reported

The Coakley-brokered deal capped price increases that Partners could initiate at three hospitals, as well as put some brakes for a time on its expansion plans within Masschusetts.

"By permitting the acquisitions, the settlement, if adopted by this Court, would cement Partners' already strong position in the healthcare market and give it the ability, because of this market muscle, to exact higher prices from insurers for the services its providers render," Sanders wrote in her decision.

Partners had already come under fire for its business practices before the tussle over acquiring the three hospitals. It currently collects 28 cents of every dollar spent on healthcare services in the Bay State.

Coakley's recently elected replacement, Attorney General Maura Healey, said she would move foward with an anti-trust suit to kill the deal if Partners persisted.

"Our office is prepared to litigate to block this transaction if Partners chooses to move forward," Healey told the Globe in a statement. "We remain committed to tackling the challenge of controlling healthcare costs while also promoting quality and access."

Partners officials, meanwhile, told the publication that they were considering their options. 

To learn more:
- here's the decision (.pdf)
- read the Boston Globe article