Senator DiPalma and Representative Marshall to introduce legislation to strengthen the Hospital Conversion Act
Lawmakers raise concerns over patient and job migration and decreased access to services with a potential Partners acquisition of CNE
State House – Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) and Rep. Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren) are expected to introduce legislation this week to strengthen Rhode Island’s Hospital Conversion Act (HCA) - the law governing hospital mergers and acquisitions in Rhode Island. Both lawmakers have expressed concern over the proposed acquisition of Care New England by Partners HealthCare and that the current HCA is not strong enough to support a proper review of entities proposing acquisitions from adjacent states.
“We have never seen a proposal where one of Rhode Island’s largest hospital systems would be acquired by a hospital network that is located in a state adjacent to Rhode Island. The potential for patients, jobs and services to migrate to Massachusetts is a serious concern,” said Senator DiPalma. “Smaller community hospitals have been acquired by hospitals as far away as California, but in those cases there was no risk of patients leaving the state to seek hospital services. This proposal presents a unique risk to Rhode Island’s hospitals and healthcare system. We must ensure our hospital conversion laws consider this potential and what it will mean for access to high-quality hospital care in Rhode Island.”
“My concerns related to patient migration are not just based on Partners attempting to drive patients to Boston, the problem might just be 20 minutes up the highway in Foxboro where Partners has a large full-service hospital at Patriot Place providing both outpatient and inpatient surgical services,” said Representative Marshall. “We need to fully understand the impacts this would have on our commercial insurance rates as well as our Medicaid program.”
The legislation as proposed would put further stipulations into the law if an acquiror is a hospital or hospital system that is located within a state immediately adjacent to Rhode Island. The legislation would direct the Department of Health to consider among other things:
• Whether the conversion will result in an increase or decrease of primary and specialty services
• Whether the conversion will result in the migration of patients
• Whether the conversion will result in the increase or decrease of the number of healthcare jobs in Rhode Island
• Whether the conversion will result in an increase in cost to the state’s Medicaid program
• Whether the conversion will result in an increase or decrease of local health insurance premiums
• Whether the conversion will increase or decrease funds available for medical research, medical innovation and academic medical programs
The legislation would also prevent an expedited review by the state of an application under the Hospital Conversion Act if the acquiring hospital or hospital system is located within a state immediately adjacent to Rhode Island.
“This isn’t something we want to rush into. I don’t see any scenario where I could support an expedited review involving two of Rhode Island’s largest employers,” added Senator DiPalma.
“With the revelation last week that Partners is now in discussions with Lifespan as well as Care New England we need to do everything we can to make sure we have the proper laws on the books to thoroughly review any proposal, which if approved, may result in fewer hospital services in Rhode Island, with fewer jobs and potentially at a higher cost to Rhode Islanders through increased insurance rates,” added Representative Marshall. “This is not a time for expediency, this is a time for caution.”