Monday, July 14, 2014

Sorry, Governor, but you are too late

A clip from the State House News Service:

Patrick Weighs In On Coakley-Partners Accord
Gov. Deval Patrick said he wants “to be convinced” the agreement between Attorney General Martha Coakley and Partners HealthCare will bring costs down. The agreement has been filed in Superior Court and a comment period on the agreement is open until July 21. 

"Well look, I share everybody’s concern about how we get health care costs down,” Patrick told reporters after an unrelated event on Thursday. “And that is the lens through which I’m viewing it, I think it’s the lens through which there will be others who comment on the settlement. On the substance of the settlement, I don’t have any more to add.”

Asked if he supports the agreement, Patrick said, “Like I said, I want to be convinced that it doesn’t add to health care costs. We’ve done a lot of really good work, together with Partners by the way, in bringing costs down, and I want to be convinced that this doesn’t push us in the opposite direction. I think it’s going to take a little bit more analysis before I have a point of view on that.” –G. Dumcius/SHNS

Dear Governor:

The AG's agreement with Partners does not "get health care costs down." It allows those costs to rise.

"We've done a lot of really good work, together with Partners . . . in bringing costs down." No, Partners has not brought costs down. The rate increases it has been given, for example by Blue Cross Blue Shield, have been above the statewide average.

And I say this respectfully, but your opinion on the issue does not matter.  This is solely in the hands of the Attorney General, who even argues that the judge in the case has little or no authority to rule on its merits.  Here's a portion of her brief:

Judicial review of consent judgments is primarily focused on legality and considerations of procedural fairness. Courts properly review consent judgments to ensure several core requirements are met. First, a court should ensure that they are not ordering conduct that contravenes the law. Second, a court should ensure that any terms that the court might one day have to enforce are reasonably clear. Third, a court should ensure that the consent judgment relates to a genuine dispute by virtue of having some reasonable relationship to the claims asserted.

As in any case in which the Attorney General seeks injunctive relief, the court must consider the public interest. But the public interest inquiry is a narrow one: the inquiry is not "what the district court believes might have been the optimal settlement" the court's duty is to determine "whether the settlement is within the reaches of the public interest."  [Cites omitted.]

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