Boston lawmakers press Steward Health for answers amid financial concerns
Congressional leaders in Massachusetts are demanding answers from Steward Health Care System amid the company's financial struggles.
Senators Edward J. Markey joined Elizabeth Warren and Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Seth Moulton, William Keating, Richard Neal, Stephen Lynch, Lori Trahan, James McGovern, Katherine Clark and Jake Auchincloss in pressing Steward to brief them on their financial situation, the status of Massachusetts facilities, and their plans to ensure the communities they serve are not abandoned.
Earlier this month, Medical Properties Trust Inc. revealed that Steward Health owes $50 million in unpaid rent.
Steward Health Care System operates facilities in eight states across the country, including locations in the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys. The healthcare provider owns Trumbull Regional Medical Center, Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Warren and Sharon Regional Medical Center.
Steward operates nine facilities in the Commonwealth and the company employs more than 16,000 nurses, doctors, and other frontline, essential health care workers in Massachusetts. Steward's Good Samaritan Hospital is the only acute care hospital in the Greater Brockton area.
Steward is the largest private, tax-paying hospital operator in the country. They own more than 30 hospitals across eight states. For some of the hospitals, Steward has only been making partial monthly rent payments since September. To try and make up money for rent, Steward secured some capital funding and sold some of their labs in Ohio and Pennsylvania to Quest Diagnostics.
In response to questions sent by 21 News, Steward attributed some of their set backs to "acute and long-tail impacts of COVID-19.
"Whether record-breaking losses, significant downsizings or facility closures, the past few years have devasted many community hospitals," the response stated. "
Steward says it has been challenged by a payor-mix system-wide that is over 70% Medicare and Medicaid, that does not cover the cost of care.
It has been an advocate for community hospitals to enlist support in rectifying this reimbursement disparity so we can collectively continue to serve underserved communities.
"Over the past decade plus, there has been a widening gap in reimbursement for all the state's community hospitals compared to the larger academic medical centers. this gap has only continued to increase, and most community hospitals are suffering losses," the statement continues."...While we are pursuing inequities and our aggressive advocacy for fairer reimbursements, Steward is advancing an action plan to strengthen its liquidity, restore its balance sheet and put the tools necessary in place to continue forward as a key provider of healthcare services to our patients, communities, physicians, and employees. Our physicians will continue to deliver excellent care to our patients."
The congressional letter reads in full:
"The abrupt closure of Steward's Massachusetts hospitals would significantly limit access to inpatient critical care and inpatient behavioral health care, as well as maternal and newborn health services in eastern Massachusetts," said the lawmakers. "The burden of Steward hospital closures would be borne primarily by the Massachusetts residents who already experience the greatest challenges accessing health care."
We write regarding recent reports indicating that Steward Health Care System (Steward) is in grave financial distress. This comes in the wake of the announced closure of Steward’s New England Sinai Hospital, allegations that Steward St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Steward Medical Group, and Steward Health Care System violated the False Claims Act, and reports that Steward is unable to meet existing rent and loan repayment responsibilities.
Steward operates nine facilities in the Commonwealth: Carney Hospital in Dorchester, Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Holy Family Hospital in Haverhill and Methuen, Morton Hospital in Taunton, Nashoba Valley Medical Center, New England Sinai Hospital, Norwood Hospital (currently closed and undergoing construction following a serious flood), Saint Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, and St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, and the company employs more than 16,000 nurses, doctors and other frontline, essential health care workers in Massachusetts.
The abrupt closure of Steward’s Massachusetts hospitals would significantly limit access to inpatient critical care and inpatient behavioral health care, as well as maternal and newborn health services in eastern Massachusetts. Since Steward’s Good Samaritan Hospital is currently the only acute care hospital in the Greater Brockton area, the availability of medical care for residents in this area would be especially challenging as patients from that region are shifted to other hospitals, many of which do not have the capacity to absorb a sustained surge in patient volume. As you know, Steward hospitals are part of Massachusetts’s network of safety net hospitals, with a high mix of Medicaid and Medicare patients. In other words, the burden of Steward hospital closures would be borne primarily by the Massachusetts residents who already experience the greatest challenges accessing health care.
We are encouraged that Steward officials are engaged in conversations with state officials. However, residents, workers, regulators, and elected officials must have a seat at the table for conversations about Steward’s plans for the future to ensure continued access to high quality medical care in their communities. Accordingly, we request a briefing on Steward’s financial position, the status of your Massachusetts facilities, and your plans to ensure the communities
Steward’s hospitals serve are not abandoned.