Attorney General Martha Coakley is renegotiating a controversial settlement with Partners HealthCare after a state commission said Wednesday that a proposed takeover of two North Shore hospitals would raise costs and increase Partners’ already formidable market power.
Coakley’s deal would allow Partners to acquire South Shore Hospital in Weymouth and Hallmark Health System in Medford and Melrose, while setting price caps and other limits on Partners’ further expansion for several years. Coakley had structured the deal, announced in May, so that it could be revised based on findings of the Health Policy Commission, a watchdog agency.
The renegotiation began immediately after the commission endorsed findings that Boston-based Partners’ acquisition of Hallmark would raise costs up to $23 million a year and stifle competition, according to the attorney general’s office.
“Our office specifically retained the ability to reengage with Partners. Those negotiations begin today,” Brad Puffer, Coakley’s spokesman, said in a statement. He did not specify the changes Coakley would seek.
Coakley, a Democratic candidate for governor, has been criticized by political rivals, Partners’ competitors, and antitrust specialists for working out a deal with Massachusetts’ biggest health system instead of suing to block its bid to grow. Puffer maintained the settlement “will fundamentally alter Partners’ negotiating power and save costs across the entire network, accomplishing more than a lawsuit would have done.”
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