BOSTON — Opponents of the 13-hospital merger involving Beth Israel and Lahey Health are asking public health officials to delay a vote planned for Wednesday, saying the public should have more time to review conditions proposed for the deal.
The Public Health Council's agenda for its Wednesday meeting includes "further review" of the transaction it has already conditionally approved and a corresponding vote. Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said on Sept. 27 that she would ask Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel to revisit the approval, based on a Health Policy Commission report that said the new system would have enhanced bargaining leverage with commercial insurers, enabling it to increase prices by up to $170.8 million a year for inpatient, outpatient, and adult primary care services.
The merger includes Beverly Hospital, Lahey Medical Center in Peabody, Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester and Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport.
Sudders said tools available to state public health regulators include extending conditions beyond five years and predicating consideration of any Beth Israel-Lahey system expansions on complying with a pending "determination of need" approval, which itself could be revoked if officials are dissatisfied.
The Make Healthcare Affordable Coalition, which opposes the deal, on Tuesday wrote to Bharel, the council and Attorney General Maura Healey, asking the vote be delayed "until all voices impacted by the merger are heard."
"Given the unprecedented nature of this proposed merger and its impacts on vulnerable populations, we request more time to discuss with the community tangible conditions that will protect communities of color and low income patients," wrote Boston resident Jackeline Peguero, a coalition member who also described herself as "a public health advocate, a person living with a disability, and a daughter of a mother in Salem with cancer."
The council's meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Department of Public Health offices on Washington Street in downtown Boston.