Proposed Partners hospital deal remains controversial

If Partners HealthCare is able to pull off a deal arranged with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley to purchase three more hospitals in the state, it will do so at the risk of the enmity of practically every other hospital operator in the region, the Boston Globe reported.

So far, there are 170 public comments on the proposed deal, according to the Globe, with many complaints coming from hospital operators and other parties who believe the deal gives Partners too much leverage over the Bay State's overall healthcare delivery. A Superior Court judge empowered to approve the deal said she has never seen so much opposition against a transaction negotiated with state regulators.

Coakley struck a deal with Partners, the largest healthcare system in New England, earlier this year to acquire two hospitals operated by Hallmark Health in Northern Massachusetts, as well as South Shore Medical Center in the Boston area. Partners agreed to cap its prices and hold off on new acquisitions for several years, among other concessions.

Coakley, who recently lost a gubernatorial bid, had underestimated opposition to the deal, according to the article. Another public body in Massachusetts, the Health Policy Commission, estimated the transaction would lead to an additional $50 million a year in costs to the state's insurers. It had previously rejected a bid by Partners to purchase South Shore, a facility Partners executives referred to as "the prize" and has been pursued by the system for the past two decades.

"Where I have serious concerns is the impact the settlement has on Massachusetts, on the healthcare costs for all Massachusetts citizens," the judge, Janet L. Sanders, said during a recent hearing.

Partners Chief Executive Officer Gary Gottlieb told the Globe that Sanders' primary responsibility is to ensure the deal is fair. "I'm hopeful that the judge will focus on the rule of law," he said.

To learn more:
- read the Boston Globe article