The Codcast: Health care duopoly in the making?

A group of hospitals led by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health of Burlington are banding together to take on Partners HealthCare, the dominant health care provider in the state.

But as the proposed merger starts to enter the regulatory review process, some health care advocates are beginning to question whether the BI-Lahey alliance will actually curb the Partners “monopoly” or merely create a doubly exploitive duopoly.

Dr. Paul Hattis, an associate professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University Medical School, said he was originally hopeful about what he calls BI-Lahey et al. But now he’s not so sure.

“I have started to worry that, instead of BI-Lahey et al taking business away from Partners, it could quite possibly raise total health care spending by taking net market share away from everyone else but Partners,” he writes in a piece in CommonWealth.

Paul Levy, the former CEO of Beth Israel, is also concerned. On this week’s Codcast, Levy describes Partners as a regulated monopoly. He is skeptical that a merger of the BI, Lahey, and several other hospitals will steal a lot of business away from Partners or produce dramatic savings that will be passed along to patients in the former of lower insurance rates.

Levy provides his take on a health care market that was radically altered in 1994 when regulators approved the merger of Massachusetts General and Brigham & Women’s hospitals, which led to the creation of Partners HealthCare. Ever since, Levy said, state officials have been trying to find a way to curb the market clout of Partners and its ability to negotiate higher insurance payments for many of its services.

Levy says hospital consolidation is occurring across the country, and typically is not accompanied by huge benefits for consumers. He says the BI-Lahey merger represents a major policy challenge for the state’s Health Policy Commission and Attorney General Maura Healey, who must review the transaction and determine whether it is in the best interest of patients.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

More than eight months after voters approved recreational adult use of marijuana, the Legislature has finally sent a bill to Gov. Charlie Baker with “fixes” in it to get the process of selling legal pot underway. (State House News) Sen. Bruce Tarr questions the constitutionality of the new law. (Salem News)

The Legislature passes a bill providing workplace protections for pregnant employees. (Boston Globe)

Rep. Russell Holmes of Boston is still smarting about his removal from House leadership by Speaker Robert DeLeo, and still criticizing DeLeo for his autocratic ways. “A lot of people up here have drunk the Kool-Aid and he can get away with anything,” he told CommonWealth. On Boston Herald Radio, he likened dealing with DeLeo to dealing with Donald Trump. Scot Lehigh takes stock of the tyrannical ways of King Robert DeLeo. (Boston Globe)

MassDevelopment names Lauren Liss as its new CEO and president. A lawyer and former state official in the administrations of William Weld and Paul Cellucci, Liss is replacing Marty Jones, who was ousted last month in an 8-3 vote. (Lowell Sun)

Michael Widmer asks: What’s the Baker administration’s rush on Medicaid reform? (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Kevin Cullen rides along with Lawrence mayor Dan Rivera, who is contending with a city awash in heroin. (Boston Globe)

Corey Lewandowski, President Trump’s former campaign manager, is suing his neighbors in New Hampshire for $5 million in a dispute over a property easement. (Eagle-Tribune)

An enormous mural project in downtown Lynn is aiming to help change the image of the community from “City of SIn” to “City of Firsts.” (Boston Globe)

The architect of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams says he plans to renovate another mill and turn it into an arts and business incubator. (Berkshire Eagle) CommonWealth reported in its recent print issue how MASS MoCA has put North Adams on the map but had little overall economic impact on the town itself.

A change in Ashland’s charter that would make the Board of Health, which has been riven by conflict and controversy, an appointed rather than an elected board has been met with some resistance from voters and officials who say such a move runs counter to democracy. (MetroWest Daily News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Despite a warning from President Trump to stay away from his and his family’s business affairs, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly broadened the scope of his investigation to include many of the billionaire’s business dealings, including the sale of condos in Trump Tower to Russians and the staging of the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013. (Bloomberg) Aides to Trump are scouring the backgrounds of Mueller and his investigators to uncover potential conflicts and wrongdoing in an effort to discredit the investigation or even build a case to fire Mueller. (New York Times)

While the Trump administration wages its war on legal retail and medical marijuana, a potent interest group is marshalling its forces to lobby to ease restrictions: military veterans, who say the drug helps ease the fallout from post-traumatic stress. (Los Angeles Times)

House Speaker Paul Ryan was greeted by protesters — but not the state’s top Republican, Gov. Charlie Baker — as he toured a New Balance factory in Lawrence. (Boston Herald) Ryan pitched Republican ideas for tax reform, saying his party is more united in its views on that topic than has been the case with health care reform. (Boston Globe)

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo comes across the border to talk about her state’s program giving free community college to all Ocean State high school graduates and speculation for a White House run. (Greater Boston)

Alan Dershowitz says partisan fervor is leading Trump opponents to overstate the case for criminal prosecution of the president on various fronts. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

The Lowell City Council voted unanimously to create a special subcommittee to review whether changes are needed in the way the city elects councilors to deter racial discrimination. (Lowell Sun). CommonWealth raised the issue last year in an article entitled: “Why whites control Lowell city government.”

A day after his chief opponent, Tito Jackson, sat down for a similar interview, Mayor Marty Walsh tells WBUR’s Meghna Chakrabarti and Globe reporter Meghan Irons that he’s become “a better listener” since assuming the city’s top job. (Boston Globe)

Jackson attends a Washington, DC, “meet and greet” hosted by an aide to House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, but a spokesman for the California congresswoman says she is firmly in Walsh’s camp in the Boston mayor’s race. (Boston Herald)

Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas describes V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai as “the real Indian” in the race for the US Senate seat currently held by Elizabeth Warren.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The state’s jobless rate ticked up in June to 4.3 percent but a local economist does not see it as a worrisome sign. (Boston Globe)

Bank of America vice chairwoman Anne Finucane has been approached about the CEO’s post at Uber. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Jessica Huizenga, the state receiver of the troubled Southbridge school system, officially resigned after being placed on administrative leave at the end of May. (Telegram & Gazette)

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said attacks from opponents of school choice is “a badge of honor” and she berated teachers unions for “defending the status quo” in a speech in Colorado to a gathering of lawmakers from around the country. (U.S. News & World Report)

Fall River school officials are reviewing their hiring practices after a special education teacher was arrested and charged with groping young girls in a Providence shopping mall. He is the second Fall River teacher charged with sex crimes involving children in the last four months. (Herald News)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Quincy city councilors have sat on a proposed ordinance raising the age to buy tobacco to 21 believing the Legislature was on the verge of passing a statewide law hiking the age but that bill has languished in the House for a year. (Patriot Ledger)

TRANSPORTATION

Elon Musk says he is pursuing the construction of an underground, high-speed transportation system connecting New York, Washington, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. (Governing)

A budget provision pushed by Rep. William (Smitty) Pignatelli of Lenox calls on the Department of Transportation to study the idea of adding a new exit off the Massachusetts Turnpike between Lee and Westfield. (MassLive)

The American Prospect digs in on the Baker administration’s privatization moves at the MBTA.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Attorney General Maura Healey has made no secret of her opposition to an electricity rate hike being sought by Eversource, but now she is pushing state regulators to eliminate the proposed increase and implement a rate cut. (CommonWealth)

Two Quincy beaches have been closed after testing showed bacteria counts 15 times the safe level for swimming. (Patriot Ledger)

CASINOS

Shifting gears, Mashpee Wampanoag leaders say they might consider applying for a commercial state casino license rather than continue to pursue tribal gambling rights through federal court. (Boston Globe)

Springfield cracks down on a vacant restaurant across the street from the MGM casino under construction. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Football legend OJ Simpson will be a free man in October after a Nevada parole board voted to grant him his release after serving nine years in prison for armed robbery. (Los Angeles Times) Simpson, who just turned 70, shouldn’t have too much to worry about financially when he gets out because he’s stockpiled more than $600,000 from his NFL pension while in prison that is protected against any legal actions. (ESPN) And if you’re not sure why this is a big deal, read this New York Times piece.

Public defenders protest their lack of office space in the new Lowell Justice Center. (Lowell Sun)

A longtime Norfolk County deputy sheriff has been suspended after he was arrested and charged with drunken driving following a crash in Hingham while wearing a shirt indicating he was working a sheriff’s department detail. (Patriot Ledger)

Howie Carr plays connect-the-dots with the upcoming trial of Teamsters facing extortion charges in connection with filming the Top Chef television and mobsters of yore. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

A group concerned about the future of local journalism is exploring the creation of special service districts (typically used to support fire districts or water infrastructure projects) to fund reporting. (Columbia Journalism Review)