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The health over wealth act

Senator Markey is releasing a discussion draft of the Health over Wealth Act. The Health over Wealth Act would require greater transparency in health care entity ownership; put safeguards in place to protect workers and preserve access to health care; and elevate the voices of workers and communities in regulating health care and monitoring hospital closures and service reductions. Senator Markey is accepting comments on this draft until May 3, 2024.

The Health Over Wealth Act has already garnered support from individuals and organizations in Massachusetts and across the country.

“Senator Markey’s aptly named Health over Wealth Act provides much needed protections for patients and communities from private equity companies – profit seeking, corporate owners that prioritize getting rich over the health and safety of patients,” said Eileen Appelbaum, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, co-author of Private Equity at Work: When Wall Street Manages Main Street. “Recent studies find that the quality of patient care in hospitals and nursing homes goes down when PE enters the picture. Patients have a right to know who owns their health provider, especially if the owners don’t care about their health. Communities are left to pick up the pieces after PE has stripped local hospitals and other facilities of resources, leaving them struggling to keep their doors open and provide the care that families depend on. The failures of Steward Health in Massachusetts, formerly owned by PE firm Cerberus Capital, and Prospect Medical in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, owned by PE firm Leonard Green, show that legislation is urgently needed to give the government the tools to hold PE firms and other bad for-profit actors accountable for looting health providers and weakening America's health care system. 

“Private equity manipulations and unrestrained profit-seeking are damaging American health care,” said Dr. Donald M. Berwick, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement. “It is high time for these behaviors to be brought under control, beginning with transparency, to protect our patients and our resources. This bill is welcome, indeed.” 

“Senator Markey’s Health over Wealth Act takes important steps toward closing the massive loopholes that greedy corporations, including unscrupulous private equity companies, are using to trash our health care system in the service of their own profits,” said Eagan Kemp, Health Care Policy Advocate, Public Citizen. “The negative effects of private equity in health care in Massachusetts and elsewhere highlight the dangers of the greed running rampant in our health care system. It is time to put patients ahead of profit and the Health Over Wealth Act does just that through requiring transparency in ownership, creating important guardrails for companies purchasing health assets, and requiring accountability for bad actors.” 

“We believe that private equity’s profiteering in healthcare is just the tip of the iceberg. Still, it has been nearly impossible to hold private equity firms accountable even when it’s clear that their financial tactics harm patients and workers. That’s because private equity firms largely operate in the shadows. These firms rely on the fact that as of now, there is very little oversight over what they do and how they make their money,” said Eileen O’Grady, Healthcare Director at the Private Equity Stakeholder Project. “We have seen the largest concentration of private equity-owned hospitals in states where there is little to no regulation of for-profit hospital ownership. In the worst cases, these PE firms have free reign to use healthcare providers to line their own pockets. Private equity exacerbates the kinds of extractive tendencies that for-profit healthcare systems frequently exhibit, and private equity firms frankly get away with their schemes because complex corporate structures shield firms from transparency and accountability. On top of these private equity-specific issues, current regulatory loopholes, combined with poor or nonexistent enforcement of existing regulations, have enhanced profiteering opportunities for these private equity firms. It’s therefore critical for policymakers to pass legislation, and for regulators to propose rules that increase transparency and accountability for private equity investments in healthcare. The new Health over Wealth Act is going to provide a much more expansive toolbox to be able to identify and regulate private equity actors in the health industry. This is a great step toward mitigating the destruction wrought by private equity in healthcare. We must be serious about the real and everyday impacts of private equity healthcare profiteering and give stakeholders the means to hold Wall Street accountable.”  

The draft Health Over Wealth Act is a needed step to address the private equity industry's attempts to plunder healthcare. The private equity industry's single-minded focus on outsize financial returns is fundamentally incompatible with the healthcare system’s essential function to care for our communities,” said Aliya Sabharwal, Private Equity Campaign Manager, Americans for Financial Reform. “The private equity playbook is extractive by nature. When applied to healthcare, it puts profits above patients and the healthcare professionals serving them. This bill charges investors with a responsibility to maintain the public’s health with their healthcare investments, increases transparency about their activities, and holds them accountable when they fail to meet their obligations. Americans for Financial Reform supports efforts to turn the economy away from the financialization practices that reward the few at the expense of the many, and to ensure that investments in health care serve to improve and not degrade the nation’s health.

“The healthcare workers who carried us through a once-in-a-generation pandemic and know better than anyone how to provide quality patient care have called a code red on private equity firms gutting patient care in favor of their profit. Private equity in our hospitals, which could have resulted in improved patient outcomes, has instead led to everything from staff reductions to department closures, and even refusals to repair surgical equipment. Firms are growing their bank accounts at the expense of our health,” said Randi Weingarten, AFT President. “Sen. Markey's pioneering legislation requires monitoring of how private equity impacts staffing levels, recruitment and retention, patient outcomes, and the number of beds available and protects workers and patients in the event of facility closures. The AFT fully supports Sen. Markey's Health over Wealth Act and encourages the Senate to put patients over profit and pass this bill.” 

“Too often private equity firms and others chasing profits in the health care industry prioritize short-term financial gain over patient care and community health. Health care workers are forced to do more with less, placing unacceptable strain on the whole system,” said Roy Houseman, Legislative Director for the United Steelworkers (USW). “The USW has long advocated for greater transparency and increased accountability when it comes to private equity in health care, and we appreciate Sen. Markey’s efforts to find legislative solutions.”  

“The Disability Law Center strongly supports the goals of the Health over Wealth Act, to strengthen our health care system and to limit the ability of private equity and real estate investment trusts to divert revenue from providers at the expense of patient care” said Barbara L’Italien, Executive Director, Disability Law Center. “In our work as the Protection and Advocacy entity for Massachusetts, we have seen how these ownership structures are detrimental to the quality health care for hospital patients, wheelchair users waiting for repairs, individuals in prisons and jails, and residents of nursing homes.”  

“Any healthcare oriented entity should be contributing to decreasing health inequities not just through treatment services, but by contributing and partnering to lift up prevention capacities in the communities in which they serve,” said Jessica Collins, Executive Director, Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts.  

“We see dramatic health inequities based on geography, race, and income,” said Carlene Pavlos, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association. “The slightest tip in the health care landscape is going to always impact people who are already experiencing the worst health outcomes.  In this context, there must be greater accountability and oversight of for-profit health care ventures.” 

The Health Over Wealth Act is just one element of Senator Markey's agenda for protecting patients and providers from corporate greed.

On April 3, 2024, Senator Markey held a HELP Subcommittee hearing titled, “When Health Care Becomes Wealth Care: How Corporate Greed Puts Patient Care and Health Workers at Risk.” From Steward Health Care to for-profit health systems across America there is a clear pattern: greed undercuts access to high quality care and places providers in impossible positions. In health care, the risks related to corporate greed are too great to tolerate. Senator Markey will fight to corporate greed in health care by demanding transparency and accountability through oversight, creating immediate safeguards to protect communities from corporate greed in health care through his Health over Wealth Act and achieving Medicare for All, supported by his State Based Universal Health Care Act, and passing his Green New Deal for Health.