Health Policy Commission to review Partners HealthCare plan to acquire South Shore Hospital

The state’s new Health Policy Commission is moving forward with a cost and market impact review of Partners HealthCare System’s plan to acquire South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, the first test of its ability to influence the ongoing hospital consolidation trend in Massachusetts.

A statement issued by the commission staff Wednesday afternoon said executives at South Shore and Boston-based Partners, which owns Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals, were notified that the commission will examine how the proposed merger of the two highly paid health care providers is likely to affect costs and the state’s health care market.

The commission was created by last year’s state health cost containment law as a watchdog to monitor changes in the health care business. It was formed at a time when providers have been banding together to better coordinate care while insurers have been shifting toward fixed payments for overall patient care rather than reimbursements for individual doctors’ visits, tests, and procedures.

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It was widely expected that the commission staff would review the Partners-South Shore alliance, the largest merger now underway. Commission executive director David Seltz is scheduled to report to the 11-member panel on June 19 regarding the staff’s initial findings. The commission will then determine whether to move forward with a more intensive review. The proposed acquisition already has been approved by the state Department of Public Health, which last month granted a license to transfer ownership of the 378-bed Weymouth hospital to Partners.

The commission is also set to decide by June 6 whether to review two other hospital merger deals: Mass General’s proposed takeover of Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centers plan to acquire Jordan Hospital in Plymouth.