Update 6:35 p.m.: A judge has granted Attorney General Martha Coakley's request for an extension. The comment period will now close Sept. 15, and Coakley will have until Sept. 25 to file comments from her office after seeing the full Health Policy Commission report. A new hearing has been set for Sept. 29.
Our original post continues:
BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is asking a judge to postpone reviewing a settlement between her office and Partners HealthCare that would allow the hospital network to acquire three new hospitals.
Coakley's motion asks a judge to wait until September to hold a hearing on the deal, which aims to limit the market clout of the state's largest hospital network in exchange for allowing it to acquire South Shore Hospital and Hallmark Health.
A spokesman for the attorney general says Coakley has seen findings from a preliminary review of the deal from the state's Health Policy Commission, and she believes the court should consider the full report.
The statement reads in full:
Our office always retained the option to seek to renegotiate portions of this agreement as it relates to Hallmark following a Final Report by the Health Policy Commission. After reviewing the preliminary findings by the HPC, we believe it is in the interest of the public and the parties involved to wait for the final report before any final consent judgment is considered by the court.
The deal would allow Partners to acquire the hospitals 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 last 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.)
A judge had previously set up a three-week comment period on the settlement, which ends July 21.
Critics of the deal, including other hospital networks, say it doesn't do enough to help reestablish a competitive market.
Partners says the merger will help improve care and lower costs.