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Beth Israel closer to acquiring Jordan Hospital

Acquisition unlikely to drive up costs, agency finds

The Health Policy Commission said that absorbing Jordan Hospital in Plymouth is not likely to drive up health costs.

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The Health Policy Commission said that absorbing Jordan Hospital in Plymouth is not likely to drive up health costs.

The staff of the Health Policy Commission is set to recommend Wednesday against the new state watchdog panel conducting a review of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s deal to acquire the 155-bed Jordan Hospital in Plymouth, effectively allowing the merger to begin.

Created by last year’s health cost containment law to monitor changes in the Massachusetts health care business and help hold down medical spending, the commission has the power to launch cost and market impact studies of all hospital mergers and acquisitions.

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In June, commissioners voted 10-0 to scrutinize an agreement by Partners HealthCare System, the state’s largest hospital and doctors organization, to take over the 378-bed South Shore Hospital in Weymouth.

While the commission cannot reject a merger, it can create a roadblock by recommending other state and federal regulators withhold approvals needed for such deals to close.

But in the case of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess — a Harvard-affiliated teaching hospital that already operates community hospitals in Milton and Needham — the commission’s staff determined in a preliminary review that absorbing Jordan is not likely to drive up health costs in Plymouth and Barnstable counties.

“Our preliminary findings indicate that, as it proposes to do with Jordan, [Beth Israel] maintains low costs at the community hospitals it currently owns,” commission executive director David Seltz said in a statement. “The outcome of our preliminary review has led staff to determine not to proceed with a cost and market impact review.”

In a statement, Beth Israel Deaconess spokesman Jerry Berger praised the recommendation to forego a review and said the merger would help improve medical services in the area served by Jordan.

Beth Israel ‘maintains low costs at the community hospitals it currently owns.’

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“Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is committed to working together with Jordan Hospital to strengthen low-cost community hospital care while also improving seamless access to [complex] services when necessary,” Berger said.

Seltz plans to outline the preliminary findings Wednesday in a meeting with commissioners at the Boston Public Library.

Among other issues, the commission staff looked at whether an alliance between Beth Israel Deaconess and Jordan could lead to more expensive care for patients, or the use of higher-paid doctors and other health care providers.

Under the acquisition agreement, many of Jordan’s primary care doctors would switch their affiliation to the new Beth Israel Deaconess Care Organization from the Tufts-affilated New England Quality Care Alliance, a move that could lower costs, according to the staff findings.

Commission staffers also found that, unlike other large Boston hospital groups such as Partners and Steward Health Care System, Beth Israel Deaconess has separate teams negotiating with health insurers for reimbursements at its academic hospital and community hospitals.

“We look at the [Beth Israel] track record here, and the track record holds up,” Seltz said.

Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.
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