A New, Unconventional Proposal by Attorney General Martha Coakley to Limit Partners HealthCare’s Market Power

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Attorney General Martha Coakley has proposed a deal to restrict the market power of Partners HealthCare, which is now awaiting approval in state court. Partners is the parent of renowned Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals in Boston.

The deal places 10 years of limits on how Partners contracts with insurers, six and a half years of limits on price increases and an outside monitor to supervise conduct. In exchange, Partners will acquire three suburban hospitals. Coakley has taken a potential anti-trust suit and turned it into a long-term policy project, that demands sustained attention and a high degree of political involvement. The success of the deal relies heavily on Coakley’s lawyer’s predictions of the health care market conditions, and on their continual involvement in the implementation.

The alternative to the deal is a grueling antitrust suit to stop Partners from increasing in size by buying hospitals. The proposed deal with Partners relies on an uncommon faith that, if a health care behemoth gets still bigger and stronger now, enlightened overseers can, over a decade, safely manage away the risks. Both critics and supporters alike say that the deal is unprecedented.