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Mass. Health Cost Watchdog Says Partners Merger Raises Red Flags

The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (Source: HPC on Twitter)
The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (Source: HPC on Twitter)

Looks like the health-cost-control rubber is just beginning to hit the road. This just in from the Health Policy Commission, the 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’s preliminary review of this proposed transaction found that 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. To enhance public understanding of the potential costs and benefits of this transaction, the HPC is proceeding with a further examination.

“The HPC was set up to be a watchdog to monitor the health care market,” said HPC Chair Dr. Stuart Altman. “CMIRs are one of the ways we will fulfill that important role as we work to build a more affordable, effective, accountable, and transparent system. I look forward to discussing the merits and next steps for this specific review with the commissioners and the public at our June meeting.”

Seltz will report on the CMIR at the Commission’s next public meeting, Wednesday, June 19, 2013, and Commissioners will vote whether to continue with the review. The CMIR will include analyzing information from the parties and other market participants, developing a preliminary report, and issuing a final report. The proposed transaction cannot be completed until 30 days after the HPC issues its final report. The HPC may also refer its findings to the Attorney General for possible further action on behalf of health care consumers.

The response from Partners spokesman Rich Copp: "The proposed affiliation between Partners, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and South Shore Hospital will offer patients in southeastern Massachusetts more coordinated, accessible and affordable health care.  We have always anticipated that the Health Policy Commission would review our proposal, and we look forward to taking this next step forward in the process."

Looking for fine print? The HPC is here and I just signed up to follow them on Twitter at @Mass_HPC. Anybody else feeling extremely intrigued about how this review will play out, and what it will mean for the state's efforts to contain health costs?

This program aired on May 22, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth blog.

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