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A state judge on Monday opened a three-week comment period before ruling on an agreement between Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Partners HealthCare.
The Boston Globe reports:
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet L. Sanders denied without prejudice a motion to intervene in the case by a coalition of hospitals and physicians groups that compete with Partners, which operates Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals along with eight other hospitals and employs about 6,000 doctors.
But the judge said the public has until July 21 to submit comments on the settlement to Coakley’s office. Sanders gave the attorney general’s office until Aug. 1 to respond to those comments. A new hearing was set for Aug. 5.
The deal would allow Partners to acquire South Shore Hospital and Hallmark Health, while meeting several conditions the attorney general's office says would alter the hospital network’s negotiating power for years to come. WBUR's Martha Bebinger reported on those conditions earlier this month:
The proposal ... would prevent Partners from contracting with affiliate physician groups that are not part of its owned hospital for 10 years. It would also cap health care costs at the rate of inflation across the entire Partners network through 2020, and block further expansion in eastern Massachusetts, including Worcester County, for seven years. (See all the conditions here.)
Critics of the deal, including competitors Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Lahey Health, Tufts Medical Center and Atrius Health, released a statement Monday praising the judge's decision.
"We are looking forward to participating in this process because it will greatly affect the cost of health care for businesses both large and small and, most importantly, the Massachusetts health care consumer, for years to come," the statement said.
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