Partners HealthCare Rivals Oppose Hospital Deal

Several Massachusetts health care providers are voicing concerns over a tentative pact that would allow Partners HealthCare, the state's largest hospital and physicians' network, to acquire at least three more hospitals.

Executives from organizations including Tufts Medical Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health - all Partners competitors - say the deal struck between state Attorney General Martha Coakley and Partners would drive up costs and lead to the closure of smaller hospitals, according to letters sent to Coakley and her top deputy.

The agreement would let Partners complete takeovers of three hospitals, South Shore Hospital in Weymouth and two hospitals operated by Hallmark Health north of Boston, and add at least 550 doctors. It would also limit how much Partners can charge for medical services and restrict further growth for five to 10 years.

"This agreement does not address the issue of costs and the disparity in payments" between Partners hospitals - including Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's - and their rivals, Tufts President Michael Wagner told The Boston Globe.

The letters suggest the agreement, meant to help control health costs by restraining Partners' market power, could have the opposite effect by locking in advantages Partners already holds.

The letters called on the attorney general's office to open the deal with Partners for public scrutiny before it goes to a Suffolk Superior Court judge for final approval.

Brad Puffer, a spokesman for Coakley's office, defended the deal.

"Our agreement in principle would help to control costs and level the playing field in the market," he said. "The negotiations are ongoing, but we are committed to being transparent and allowing for feedback should a final agreement be reached."

Partners vice president Rich Copp said Partners executives had not seen the letters, but said the organization's expansion plans had been transparent.

This article was originally published on June 11, 2014.


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