Thursday, June 12, 2014

Watch here for backsliding

Look at this comment in a story by WBUR's Martha Bebinger by a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Attorney General--as concern arises about her announced sell-out, er deal, with Partners Healthcare System:

Coakley’s spokesman says she is “committed to being transparent and allowing for feedback should a final agreement [with Partners] be reached.”

This is the same AG who plastered the airwaves a few weeks ago with this message:

In a resolution that would fundamentally alter the negotiating power of Partners HealthCare for 10 years and control health costs across its entire network, Attorney General Martha Coakley today announced a groundbreaking agreement with Partners that would allow the organization to acquire South Shore Hospital and Hallmark Healthcare.

While the press release acknowledged that the deal was subject to finalization, we all know that these kind of announcements are not meant as trial balloons.  Particularly during a gubernatorial campaign, you don't announce something like this unless you are sure the deal is done.

But perhaps the AG is having some second thoughts now: "Should a final agreement [with Partners] be reached." Bebinger notes:

In an unusual, perhaps unprecedented move, leaders from across the health care industry are calling for closer scrutiny of a deal that would cap prices for Partners HealthCare in the short term but would let the state’s largest hospital network add four more hospitals.

The pressure is mounting on Coakley just a few days before the state’s Democratic nominating convention where Coakley, a candidate for governor, is expected to gain enough delegate votes to get on the primary ballot.

This issue is big enough, in terms of the impact on the state economy for decades to come, to cost the AG the election.*  And she now knows it. My prediction: Watch for her to weasel out of this deal (or perhaps delay "finalization" until much later in the election cycle.)


* Disclosure:  I have donated money to two other candidates in this race, one of whom has now come out in opposition to the deal.


Anonymous said...

Partners, too, won't want public scrutiny now, so I expect there will be some kind of backdoor handshake.

nonlocal MD said...

In this case, 'weaseling' out of the deal would be the least she could do for the people of your state. Why did you even establish your Health Policy review commission if she is going to go her own way anyway? Defines the term 'lip service'.

Anonymous said...

What the AG needs now is for someone to offer her a face-saving exit from the dead end that she chose to drive down.

Anonymous said...

the best "face saving" way out is as was said earlier is for the Attorney General recuse herself, and let others make the final decisions - saying the deal was always subject to "final review" (from what I understand, there is language to that effect in the deal).

-- she should also ask the health policy commission to analyze the deal" - better that she "ask" for the "neutral analysis" rather than being subjected to it. She can then claim credit for its findings and link the outcome to her earlier investigation of Partners as a means to control health costs.

The deal is than "modified" to reflect the findings of the health policy commission.

-- Partners price increase at least no higher than "ANY OTHER" academic medical centers in the Boston area and preferably lower to allow "price convergence".

-- Hallmark and Emerson - not included in the deal. They must be reviewed separately by HPC.

-- No right to add doctors to its network. Any increase in Partners network including medical office buildings or an increase in medical staff in any form is subject to review by the H.P.C.

all of this is merely "as was expected" when the HPC was set up.

restrain Partners so they can't drive up prices any longer.

H.P.C. reviews and restrains "goliath" in the form of Partners.