Partners: We’re No. 1

Partners HealthCare has been taking a lot of hits from state policymakers and business rivals, but the hospital network is receiving accolades elsewhere.

US News & World Report just released its annual honor roll of America’s best hospitals and two Partners institutions, Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s, ranked No. 1 and No. 6, respectively. (A slide-show of the top 15 is here.)

Locally, Partners has come under heavy fire for its high prices and its expansionist tendencies. A state judge in January rejected a consent agreement negotiated between former attorney general Martha Coakley and Partners that would have allowed the hospital network to acquire South Shore Hospital and two other community facilities. The judge ruled the deal would give Partners too much clout to extract top dollar from insurers for the services its hospitals provide. Partners had argued that it was only trying to expand its hospital system with the goal of delivering care in the most appropriate settings.

The US News rankings and others like it create a challenge for local policymakers. Officials would like to steer patients to lower-cost community hospitals for routine treatments, but patients, influenced by the rankings, tend to flock to more expensive teaching hospitals in Boston such as the Mass. General and the Brigham.

Yet US News is emphatic that its ratings have nothing to do with routine care. “The focus of the Best Hospitals rankings has long been on meeting the needs of the most challenging and medically complex patients,” the magazine said. “These patients represent cases where the stakes are greatest – often a matter of life or death – and where, for some patients, it makes sense to venture beyond a trusted community hospital to seek care at a truly exceptional medical center.”

BRUCE MOHL

 

BEACON HILL

The Baker administration is requiring more than 500,000 people to reapply for Medicaid to verify their eligibility. So far, 293,000 applications have been processed, and 78 percent of the applicants have had their eligibility verified and 22 percent rejected. About 116,000 people have failed to submit applications for coverage. (Associated Press)

House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s campaign committee raises a record $415,000 during the first six months of this year. (CommonWealth)

Proponents and opponents of legislation to strengthen the state’s public records law turn up the heat. (Boston Globe) Robert Ambrogi, executive director of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, says the reform legislation may already be dead.

David Scharfenberg looks at the return of earmarks to the state budget as the economy improves. (Boston Globe)

Massachusetts fares poorly in a report on the financial health of states, but one analyst says the dire assessment is overblown. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Billerica Selectman George Similaris is going to be charged with a misdemeanor for painting crosswalks downtown on his own. Similaris says he took matters into his own hands when the municipal project was delayed repeatedly. (The Sun)

Lynn officials say they plan to begin more aggressive enforcement of parking regulations downtown. An editorial says the new enforcement is a good thing because it means people are coming downtown. (Item)

A swastika made out of cinder blocks is found at a school track in Millbury. (Telegram & Gazette)

Fairhaven tussles over sidewalks. (Standard-Times)

OLYMPICS

Mayor Marty Walsh calls on Olympics opponents to disclose their donors. (Boston Herald)

Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson is seeking a subpoena to force Boston 2024 to release all of its original bid document for the Olympics. (WBUR)

No Boston Olympics co-chairs Kelley Dossett and Chris Dempsey say bid 2.0 is a bad deal. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Raymond Mariano, the head of the Worcester Housing Authority, says public assistance as currently organized is a failure. (CommonWealth)

Lawrence Lessig says the only way to accomplish campaign finance reform is to move from large-dollar private funding to small-dollar public funding. (New York Times) Here’s a CommonWealth Conversation with Lessig on his views on money and politics.

A Salem News editorial hails the mutual respect exhibited by two political rivals, US Rep. Seth Moulton and the man he defeated, Wakefield Republican Richard Tisei.

Who knew? Normalization of relations with Cuba could mean a huge windfall for Staples. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Donald Trump, world’s greatest troll. (FiveThirtyEight) A Des Moines Register editorial says it’s time for Trump to get out of the presidential race. US Sen. Elizabeth Warren calls Trump a “blowhard” (State House News) as he hits a new high in a poll. (Time)

Jeb Bush is a nasty guy. (Politico Magazine)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Other states have multiple successful regions within their borders. Why not Massachusetts? (CommonWealth)

A new report finds that there are more children living in poverty today in the Bay State than there were during the Great Recession. (Patriot Ledger)

EDUCATION

FiveThirtyEight has a great distillation of the research debate over value-added measures of teacher effectiveness, the complicated quantitative social science at the heart of many teacher policy controversies.

HEALTH CARE

Questions are being raised by doctors and researchers about the incredibly high cost of Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ newly-approved cystic fibrosis drug, which will cost $259,000 per patient, per year. (Boston Globe)

Suicide is a leading cause of death among middle aged men in Bristol County. (Herald News)

TRANSPORTATION

Two Boston legislators file a bill requiring Uber, Lyft and other ride services to conduct more rigorous background checks on drivers and carry insurance comparable to that held by taxi companies. (Boston Herald) Uber and Lyft representatives plan to meet with Attorney General Maura Healey about concerns that the companies are not serving customers who use wheelchairs or have other disabilities. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Traffic and parking concerns are being raised by opponents of a planned deal to give Simmons College control of a state park in Brighton. (Boston Herald)

Methuen is moving ahead with a plan to aggregate all the commercial and residential customers in town in a bid to negotiate lower electricity rates. (Eagle-Tribune)

MEDIA

Two editors at Gawker step down after a controversial story on a male media executive’s attempt to hire a gay escort was pulled from the website. (New York Times)