March 26, 2024

Senator Warren Statement on Steward Health Care’s Sale of Stewardship Health to UnitedHealth Group

Washington D.C. - Today, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released the following statement regarding Steward Health Care’s plan to sell its physician group Stewardship Health to UnitedHealth Group’s subsidiary Optum: 

“After years of gross profiteering and mismanagement, Steward’s latest plan raises more serious questions about the future of the Massachusetts health care system. My top priority is ensuring Steward’s Massachusetts hospitals remain open. But Steward executives have no credibility, and I am concerned that this sale will not benefit patients or health care workers, or guarantee the survival of these facilities. It would be a terrible mistake for Steward to be allowed to walk away while looting Massachusetts hospitals one more time. 

“Optum, a UnitedHealth Group subsidiary, is already the largest employer of physicians in the country – controlling over ten percent of American doctors  – which means this deal raises significant antitrust concerns in Massachusetts and nationally. The Department of Justice is already reportedly investigating UnitedHealth’s relationship with its Optum health services arm. 

“I’ll continue working in partnership with state officials and health care workers to support the communities Steward serves, protect jobs, ensure a competitive health care marketplace, and hold executives accountable for any wrongdoing.”

Senator Warren has been leading oversight on Steward and has repeatedly called out the impact of private equity ownership on health care costs and quality of care: 

  • Today, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Ed Markey sent a letter to Steward Health Care CEO and Chairman Dr. Ralph de la Torre, calling on him to testify at congressional hearing next week in Boston.
  • Earlier this month, Senator Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Senator Ed Markey sent a letter to Steward Health Care CEO and Chairman Dr. Ralph de la Torre, blasting him for years of financial mismanagement, private equity schemes, and executive profiteering that have led to Steward Health’s financial crisis, which threatens to upend access to health care in Eastern Massachusetts communities and yank jobs from the health care workers employed at the company’s facilities.
  • On February 15, 2024, Senators Warren and Markey, along with all nine members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, sent a letter to Cerberus seeking answers from the private equity firm for its role in creating the current financial challenges at Steward hospitals
  • On January 29, 2024, Senator Warren released a statement regarding Steward Health Care. A week prior to the statement she led the Massachusetts delegation in a letter to the CEO of Steward Health Care pressing the company to brief them on Steward’s financial position, the status of their Massachusetts facilities, and their plans to ensure the communities they serve are not abandoned. 
  • On November 27, 2023, Senators Warren and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to U.S. Anesthesia Partners and its private equity (PE) parent company Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe raising concerns that PE’s involvement in health care markets has exacerbated problems like surprise medical billing, inadequate training, and lack of oversight and due process.
  • On October 4, 2023, Senator Warren and Representative Pramila Jayapal sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), urging them to carefully scrutinize UnitedHealth Group’s (UHG’s) pending acquisition of Amedisys.
  • On September 19, 2023, Senator Warren and Representative Becca Balint (D-Vt.), along with a bicameral group of lawmakers, submitted a public comment letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) in support of the agencies’ proposed merger guidelines, including the guidelines’ focus on serial acquisitions of small health care providers by PE companies that drive PE market dominance in health care.