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New report says Mass General Brigham’s expansion plans won’t raise costs

Mass General Brigham offices in Somerville.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Mass General Brigham’s controversial plan to build three outpatient surgery centers would help Massachusetts control health care costs, according to a new report commissioned by the hospital system and made public Tuesday.

The analysis from Sean May, a health care consultant at Charles River Associates, said the surgery centers would not increase Mass General Brigham’s market share enough to “meaningfully change the system’s bargaining leverage with health insurers.”

May’s report also said health care spending would drop for patients who switch from receiving higher-priced care at hospitals to MGB’s outpatient centers.

The new analysis contradicts a tough assessment issued last month by Attorney General Maura Healey. She said in a report that the project is likely to increase health care costs by drawing patients away from lower-priced health care providers and that such a shift could destabilize community hospitals that depend on patients with private insurance.

Mass General Brigham, the state’s biggest and most expensive health system, has encountered opposition from competitors, consumer advocates and other groups as it plans to build new facilities in Westborough, Westwood, and Woburn.


Officials at the Department of Public Health who are reviewing the project required MGB to hire an independent consultant to study whether the project aligns with the state’s goal of controlling health care spending. Public health officials will consider the report as they decide whether to approve MGB’s building plans.

MGB is also planning a massive new addition at Massachusetts General Hospital and an expansion at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital. May studied these projects and said they, too, would help the state control health care costs.

MGB officials said they were pleased with the reports. “Mass General Brigham’s effort to address two important issues for our patients in Massachusetts: provide greater access to care and reduce their costs, is confirmed today by the Independent Cost Analysis,” spokeswoman Jennifer Street said.


But competitors, including UMass Memorial Health, Wellforce, and Shields Health Care Group, argue that MGB is trying to poach their wealthiest patients. A coalition representing the competitors said Tuesday that the new report doesn’t account for how MGB’s expansion would affect other health care providers.

“We are disappointed to see such an incomplete analysis that shortchanges the people of Massachusetts and confirms our fears that the evaluation would be narrow in focus and skewed in favor of MGB,” the Coalition to Protect Community Care said in a statement.

“We urge the Department of Public Health to reject this inadequate report,” the group said.

The Health Policy Commission, a state agency that studies the health care market, has yet to weigh in on the project. In the past, the commission has been critical of MGB, formerly known as Partners HealthCare, and other big health care providers that have sought to expand through acquisitions and new building projects.

State health officials are expected to decide whether to approve MGB’s expansion plans in the coming months.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.