State enlists long list of advisors to guide health care cost control

A long list of health industry leaders, many familiar faces and a few new ones, have been enlisted by David Seltz, executive director of the state Health Policy Commission, to serve on an advisory council that will guide the commission’s implementation of the new health care cost control law.

Members serve two-year terms. With 32 advisors, including representatives of hospitals, insurers, doctors and state government, it’s a good thing the group’s feedback does not need to be unanimous. The state planned to post the full list of members here Tuesday night.

At a commission meeting Tuesday, the agency also made clear that previously-disclosed plans by Partners HealthCare and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to merge with smaller hospitals will require a notice be filed with the Commission and may then be subject to a so-called market impact review.

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The commission must write regulations for conducting market reviews of hospitals, doctors practices, and other providers that buy or merge with others. The agency will assess the effect on employers and consumers, including whether prices are likely to rise or fall, and whether care will improve.

The commission is working on final regulations, but said that for now “any provider or provider organization with $25 million in net patient service revenue or more in the preceding fiscal year proposing a material change to its operations or governance structure that has not been finalized as of March 12, 2013’’ must file notice.

That includes Partners’ proposed merger with South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, and the proposed deal between Beth Israel Deaconess and Jordan Hospital in Plymouth.

The commission will not have the power to stop a transaction that it believes will negatively affect the market. But the agency will publicize its reports and make them available to the Department of Public Health, the Attorney General, and the US Department of Justice, which do have this authority.

Seltz said in a statement:

Seemingly every day we hear about new significant changes to the organization of the health care delivery system, from mergers and acquisitions, to the creation of new accountable care organizations.

Starting today the state will be taking a close look at these changes and asking tough questions on behalf of consumers: how will these transactions affect costs, prices, access to care, the quality of care, and the competitiveness of the marketplace?

We will make our findings public and in so doing, shine the bright “spotlight” of transparency on the health care system.