Friday, September 05, 2014

AG candidates aim to close the barn door, but too late

Brava to Jessica Bartlett at the Boston Business Journal for asking the question more directly than her colleagues in the "major" media outlets, but how much more wimpy could the answers have been from the two Democratic candidates for Attorney General?  Maybe after the primary, reporters will ask the winner and the Republican candidate, John Miller, to respond with some substance.

Bartlett asked:

Democratic candidates for attorney general Maura Healey and Warren Tolman have both spoken out against the proposed settlement between current Attorney General Martha Coakley and Partners HealthCare, which allows the medical titan to acquire several community hospitals while putting some restrictions on contracting and price hikes.

But if elected, what would either candidate do about the deal?

Neither candidate was available for a phone conversation on the topic. But in email interviews, both were asked how they would deal with the settlement, if approved by a judge in its present form, and how they would lower health care costs in the long term.

Here's the key part of Maura Healey's answer:

This will be a major priority of mine as attorney general. While I’m skeptical of some aspects of the agreement, it will be the task of the next attorney general to hold parties to the agreement and to the outcomes promised to consumers and businesses. The agreement provides for review, and I will exercise that authority as attorney general to meet my commitment to the public.

That means having an attorney general who will continue to put a spotlight on these problems, who understands the nuances of the health care marketplace and who will hold provider and health plan feet to the fire to ensure we do everything in our power to apply the kind of downward pressure we need on health care costs.

Here's the key part of Warren Tolman's answer:

My biggest concern, which has been highlighted by the Health Policy Commission, with the Partners settlement is that it does not ensure a downward pressure on prices. When an increase in prices is locked into the agreement, whether to account for inflation or other reasons, the disparities between competing providers will only grow over time. That increases the power of higher cost providers over the lower cost providers over time, which will hurt competition.

Bolstered by the recently passed Chapter 224, as attorney general, I will use the office’s authority to oversee the health care market to enforce anti-trust laws and reduce anti-competitive behavior. I will also use the office's authority to regulate charitable health services organizations to push to control health costs and improve quality.

So, in short, in spite of reservations, they will not act to stop the agreement from going through.  They will try to close the barn door after the horse is bolted.

Dear Maura and Warren, that will be too late.


Anonymous said...

Wait, won't it be a done deal by then? I am lost in the details.


Paul Levy said...

The Court schedule has been extended in the past. It could be again.