- Associated Press - Monday, January 26, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - Attorney General Maura Healey expressed concern Monday about a high-profile deal that would allow Partners HealthCare to merge with South Shore Hospital - but said she won’t stand in the way if the court signs off on the proposal.

Monday’s filing in Suffolk Superior Court is Healey’s first official comment on the deal since she took office. The agreement with Partners was hammered out by her predecessor, fellow Democrat and former Attorney General Martha Coakley.

In the filing, Healey told the court that despite her concerns, her office would vigorously enforce the agreement if the court approves it. If the court rejects the deal, however, Healey said she would attempt to block any merger.

“One of the greatest challenges for our commonwealth is controlling health costs while promoting quality and access, and I evaluated this issue with that goal in mind,” Healey said in a written statement.

Healey said that since the initial deal was reached, the court has been presented with additional information from insurers, health care providers and the state’s Health Policy Commission, which she said have raised concerns about the agreement’s ability to control costs over time.

The commission released a report last year criticizing part of the agreement that dealt with Partner’s planned acquisition of Hallmark Health Systems, which owns Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford and Melrose-Wakefield Hospital.

That report prompted Coakley to renegotiate that portion of the deal with Partners under a provision of the original agreement that allowed both sides to reopen negotiations in the event that the commission determined there would be a “likelihood of materially increased prices” as a result of Partners’ acquisition of Hallmark.

A Partners spokesman said Monday that the company is committed to working with South Shore Hospital and Hallmark Health - which the company also hopes to acquire - to deliver more coordinated care to patients in those communities at lower costs.

“We believe strongly in this vision and we await the Judge’s ruling on the proposed consent judgment,” said Partners’ spokesman Rich Copp.

A coalition representing health care providers including Atrius Health, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Lahey Health System and Tufts Medical Center said public input into the proposal helped raise awareness about how to contain costs within the health care system while continuing to provide high quality care.

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