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Potential buyer reportedly backs out of Steward Health Care sale




Health

Optum’s deal to buy Steward’s national physician group was announced in March before the hospital giant declared bankruptcy.

Holy Family Hospital in Methuen which is owned by Steward. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Optum — a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group poised to buy out Steward Health Care’s national physician group — is apparently backing out of the plan announced in March, The Boston Globe reported

Optum’s deal with Steward would’ve allowed the physicians to “retain their clinical practice autonomy.” The notice of material change also said Optum was “dedicated to maintaining” Steward’s workforce and wouldn’t “diminish” any services, according to documents submitted to the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission in late March.

Optum said last week that they wouldn’t be moving forward with the proposed plan, a Massachusetts official told the Globe on the condition of anonymity. Steward, Optum, and HPC did not return requests for comment Sunday evening.

The sale came about a month before Steward filed for bankruptcy protection in May. The hospital group plans to sell all of their hospitals while promising to keep the group’s eight Massachusetts hospitals up and running. Dallas-based Steward operates more than 30 hospitals across the country.

New England Sinai Hospital in Stoughton, Morton Hospital in Taunton, Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer, Carney Hospital in Dorchester, Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Holy Family Hospital in Haverhill and Methuen, Norwood Hospital, Saint Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, and St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton are all in Steward’s network. 

Officials want more transparency in healthcare amid Steward’s financial crisis

Steward’s financial woes came to light in January. Since then, state and federal officials have attempted to to maintain care for residents and hold the hospital giant accountable for what they characterize as serious mismanagement. The state Department of Public Health announced an emergency activation plan last month, while Governor Maura Healey fought for Steward to release audited financial documents in February.

“This situation stems from and is rooted in greed, mismanagement and lack of transparency on the part of Steward leadership in Dallas, Texas,” Healey said in May after the bankruptcy filing. “It’s a situation that should never have happened and we’ll be working together to take steps to make sure this never happens again.”       

This month, Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren have taken aim at Steward in Washington. Markey asked the Department of Labor to ensure Steward’s 30,000 employees — nearly 10,000 of whom live in Massachusetts — continue to receive paychecks, healthcare, and retirement benefits amid the financial crisis.

Warren proposed legislation to target private equity in healthcare, which she said would offer penalties and safeguards to protect patients, health care workers, and hospitals from private equity “looting.”

“My bill says that if you drive a hospital like Steward into bankruptcy, putting patients and communities at risk, you should face real consequences,” including potential prison time, Warren said earlier this month.





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