The Attorney General’s settlement allowing Partners Healthcare to acquire South Shore Hospital and two North Shore community hospitals is a great and lasting disservice to the future of high quality, affordable health care in Massachusetts. Facing an opportunity to stand up for patients, business, laborers, and communities, Martha Coakley did not just blink; she closed her eyes.
Partners is an important and revered health care leader, but it is also a behemoth, already able to dictate prices and raise costs due to its overwhelming dominance in the market. The Massachusetts Health Care Commission, which is charged to oversee and report in progress toward better and more affordable care, recommended against Partners’ acquisition of both South Shore and Hallmark, but the Attorney General pushed it through without the benefit of truly open and pubic scrutiny.
This agreement will assure continuing high prices for the Partners system. Patients and families will have less choice, constructive competition among providers will decrease, and high health care costs for workers and businesses will continue to drain their resources. Job losses are inevitable, since Massachusetts’ high health care costs are one of the most important reasons that businesses cite for leaving the state, for decreasing their growth, and for not coming to Massachusetts in the first place. Small businesses, especially, suffer from those costs.
Attorney General Coakley should have held the line and insisted that Partners do what an organization of its stature and excellence can do: lead progress in Massachusetts toward better care and lower cost at the same time. Instead, she chiseled the status quo in stone.