HCFA Submits Comments to Court on Partners Deal
HCFA has submitted detailed comments to the state court reviewing the proposed settlement agreement concerning the acqusition by Partners HealthCare of hospitals and physician practices north and south of Boston.
Our comments start from the premise that the settlement ought to be considered as a question of public policy, and not just a legal issue:
The provision of health care services is not treated as an ordinary, private commodity by the public or the Commonwealth. Health care is an intensely public good.
Thus, we urge the Court to treat the issues raised by the proposed settlement as part of the public policy process of Massachusetts. This demands that the issues covered by the agreement be subject to widespread and transparent public scrutiny. Accountable public officials must have an opportunity to investigate and make judgments about the impact of various consequences of the transactions and restrictions the Court is being asked to judge.
In our comments, we raise issues of access to behavioral health services, the impact on safety net institutions, and if the acquistion could affect availability of providers for low-income patients in MassHealth or health programs through the Health Connector. We also include comments about how quality of care could be affected.
We call on the revised settlement agreement to go before the Health Policy Commission, so a broad public analysis can occur.
Our comments are available on the Attorney General's website, here. All of the other comments filed are now online, here. Most of the comments are from other providers, or people affiliated with the communities affected. Several academics have weighed in, including Alan Sager at BU, Nancy Kane and Nancy Turnbull of Harvard, Katherine Swartz of Harvard, and a group of academic economists. A large number of individuals have also added their thoughts, some quite eloquent. Other consumer groups that have commented include the American Antitrust Institute, MassPIRG, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO), and the co-chairs of Disability Advocates Advancing our Healthcare Rights.
As the next week's court hearing on the issue gets closer, we hope the consumer voices will weigh strong in the process.