New Scrutiny Of Hospitals By State Health Commission

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WBUR's Martha Bebinger reports that hospitals looking to expand or change what they do are under new scrutiny starting today:

The state's Health Policy Commission adopted guidelines today that apply to providers with revenue of at least $25 million a year. These hospitals or other providers must notify the commission when they propose a merger, affiliation or acquisition that would increase their revenue by $10 million or more. Hospitals that seek to merge or affiliate with insurance companies must also report their plans.

Several commission members objected to the guidelines because they do not require providers to tell the commission when they are closing units or facilities. The commission is expected to consider adding closures at a later date.

Commission members says more scrutiny is needed in this time of rapid hospital mergers and acquisitions because when hospital networks grow they often get more expensive.

"Our role is to examine those consolidations and say, will this lead to higher prices or will this lead to better quality and care coordination," said Commission Director David Seltz.

Evidence on the pros and cons of hospital changes will be public for the first time in Massachusetts but the commission does not have the authority to block changes it finds are not worthwhile. The commission can forward any recommendations to the state Attorney General for possible action.

This program aired on March 12, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Martha Bebinger Twitter Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.