Letter Text (PDF)

Washington (May 16, 2024) - Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security, and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the HELP Committee, today wrote to United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra requesting that HHS stand ready to provide any support necessary to help ensure that no one loses access to care as a result of Steward Health Care’s gross financial mismanagement. The letter follows Steward Health Care’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on May 6, 2024.

Steward, a for-profit health system headquartered in Dallas, Texas, was founded in Massachusetts in 2010 when Steward, backed by private-equity company Cerberus Capital Management, purchased several non-profit, community hospitals in the state. Over the following decade, Steward and Cerberus stripped Massachusetts hospitals of their assets and loaded all their hospitals with debt. Part of this strategy included selling the land out from under a hospital to a real estate investment trust, predominately Medical Properties Trust (MPT), and entering into a sale leaseback agreement that required the hospital to pay rent on property it used to own. This predatory strategy facilitated Steward’s aggressive national and international expansion. Steward now operates 400 facility locations and 3,600 staffed beds, and employs nearly 30,000 employees, in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

In the letter, the lawmakers wrote, “Steward’s implosion directly affects patients, providers, and communities. Patients are anxious and uncertain about continuing their care at Steward. Surrounding health systems and community providers in Massachusetts report feeling additional pressure as patients and providers turn to them. Many of these facilities serve a high percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients and are located in lower-income communities that already have limited and overburdened healthcare providers. Any reductions to health quality or access would cause immense harm.

The lawmakers continued, “Millions rely on Steward nationwide, and its bankruptcy threatens to send shockwaves across the country. HHS can be a valuable partner in mitigating the effects of Steward’s financial recklessness. If states and healthcare providers in states where patients receive Steward-affiliated care request support, we hope that HHS will urgently respond. Although the responsibility for this crisis rests exclusively on Steward and its corporate collaborators, a resolution to this crisis that preserves and protects patients and providers demands involvement and collaboration among federal, state, and local authorities.”