Health care watchdog: BI-Lahey merger will hike costs; Commission members think new system can work

Does anyone really believe that hospital mergers create efficiency and sustainable cost reductions for consumers, business and government? It's never happened and never will. Let hospitals be blockbustered. Don't coddle them. - Sanders DiPiero

A REPORT ON by the state’s health care industry watchdog analyzing the proposed merger of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health says the marriage won’t produce the kinds of savings the hospitals project nor tamp down Partners HealthCare’s stranglehold on the market.

But members of the Health Policy Commission aren’t convinced that the models its staff members used are the only likely outcome of the merger and they also expressed confidence that if the union goes through, they can recommend conditions that would create price controls and protect smaller hospitals.

“That’s one assumption,” Health Secretary Marylou Sudders said of the price increase forecasts. “We see reports that say a merger will just drive up prices. But have we looked for models that show in a merger, can you drive down prices, can you constrain prices. We don’t have a model in here that shows a merger that could constrain costs.”

Dr. Stuart Altman, chairman of the commission, said while creating a larger health entity can invariably lead to increased costs for patients as well as sucking revenues from smaller community hospitals, the commission, which does not have the power to approve or kill the merger, can use its bully pulpit to exact concessions.

“There’s a lot of good things in this merger,” said Altman. “I reject the idea that we cannot do behavioral modifications to affect pricing… I reject the idea we can’t make changes in this model.”


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