State commission launches review of Partners plan to take over South Shore Hospital

The state’s new Health Policy Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to press forward with a full “cost and market impact review” of Partners HealthCare System’s deal to acquire South Shore Hospital.

That review is the first launched by the 10-member commission, which was created by a state health-cost containment law enacted last year. As such, it could test whether the watchdog panel—which has no formal authority to reject a merger—can influence the course of hospital consolidation in Massachusetts.

“The laissez-fare era, without any appropriate review [of hospital mergers] ... is clearly over,” said commission member Paul Hattis,

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The review will examine the impact of the proposed takeover of the Weymouth hospital by Boston-based Partners—the state’s largest hospital and physicians organization—on health care costs, competition, and market access. The commission will write a report and can recommend the state attorney general’s office take action to block the alliance.

South Shore Hospital is one of the largest remaining independent community hospitals in Massachusetts. The proposed transaction would involve transferring its ownership to Partners, tighter integration of affiliated doctors, and joint contracting with the insurers that reimburse them for medical care.