Partners HealthCare System has agreed to pay $3.3 million to cover the cost of the state’s five-year investigation into its market power, and for a court-appointed monitor to scrutinize its actions for the next decade.
The payments are detailed in a much-anticipated final agreement between the health care giant and Attorney General Martha Coakley that was filed in Suffolk Superior Court on Tuesday. The consent judgment follows the outlines of a preliminary agreement reached by the two sides in May, allowing Partners to acquire South Shore Hospital in Weymouth and at least two other community hospitals, but restricting its further expansion and temporarily capping its prices.
Coakley said she determined that a settlement of the antitrust inquiry would have more impact than suing Partners to try to block its mergers with South Shore and Hallmark Health System’s Lawrence Memorial and Melrose-Wakefield hospitals. A suit would have maintained an unacceptable status quo in the health care market, with Partners using its dominant position to charge higher prices, she said.
Through the settlement, she said in an interview, “We changed their contracting practices, we’ve got restrictions on their prices and total medical expenses, and we’re going to continue to monitor them.”
Coakley said that in most cases, the attorney general seeks a judge’s approval for such agreements immediately. Instead, Coakley requested a court hearing by early next week, so that opponents have time to file their opinions with the court. “We do know there’s been an enormous amount of interest in this,” she said.
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