- Suffolk, MA Superior Court judge Janet L. Sanders has given no indication of how she will rule on the proposed acquisition by Partners HealthCare of three community hospitals, but displayed skepticism of the validity of the attorney general's approval in a hearing on Monday. The deal, which would make Partners the state's largest healthcare system, was approved by Attorney General Martha Coakley during a gubernatorial campaign which she lost.
- Sanders suggested that Coakley's political ambitions may have colored her approval of the deal (sparking hot words from Coakley), and said that she may consult AG-elect Maura Healey on the issue.
- Sanders also expressed concerns that the existent settlement does not mitigate the increased market power that it would provide Partners, which already operates 10 hospitals with around 6,000 physicians. "This [deal] is going to be here for 10 years," Sanders said. "It’s going to have enormous impact for the citizens of our Commonwealth. Surely we should make sure that the incoming attorney general is behind this."
Coakley and Partners reached a final settlement six months ago, marking the conclusion of an AG and federal investigation that had gone on for five years. Should Sanders approve the deal, Partners will acquire South Shore Hospital in Weymouth and two Hallmark Health System hospitals in Medford and Melrose at the cost of price caps and limits on Partners' growth and contracting practices. The caps expire in six and a half years—one major concern Sanders has expressed. "What’s to say they don't recoup all their losses [after the cap expires]?" Sanders said. "If they recoup all the money, what have you gotten at the end of the day?"
The Partners deal faces stiff opposition from the system's competitors as well as antitrust specialists, consumer advocates, watchdog groups and others.