No bailout for Steward, Massachusetts governor says

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey said Steward Health Care is "not going to be bailed out," amid the Dallas-based system's financial troubles, NPR affiliate WBUR reported Jan. 27.    

Ms. Healey said state officials have not seen a plan from Steward and that her goal is to "make sure that patients are protected, that jobs are protected and that the healthcare system in Massachusetts is stabilized," according to the report. 

In his Jan. 29 Boston Globe business column, staff writer Jon Chesto pointed to Mass General Brigham as a potential savior for Steward.

Mass General Brigham, a nonprofit integrated health system, has an annual budget of nearly $20 billion and is more than double the size of the second-largest hospital group in the state, Beth Israel Lahey Health, all pointing to a system that could help prevent further financial difficulties for Steward, Mr. Chesto wrote. 

At the end of 2023, Steward was around $50 million behind on rent owed to Medical Properties Trust, the largest U.S. hospital landlord. 

Steward officials have said low reimbursement rates from insurers are causing significant financial losses at its community hospitals, which could jeopardize their ability to continue offering services, according to WBUR's report. 

MGB's efforts to expand have been met with rejection in the past, which might dissuade any decision to take on Steward, according to Mr. Chesto.

MGB, formerly known as Partners HealthCare, had its acquisition plans for Weymouth, Mass.-based South Shore Hospital and Melrose, Mass.-based Hallmark Health System declined by a Suffolk Superior Court judge in 2015. 

While MGB declined Becker's request for comment on its potential stepping in to take on some of Steward Health's hospitals, it recently withdrew its physicians from Holy Family Hospital, which has two locations in Haverhill and Methuen Mass., and is one of four Steward hospitals that the health system is looking to sell. 

"After hearing that certain surgical equipment may not be available, we made the decision to reschedule upcoming orthopedic and GI procedures at Holy Family Hospital. We have contacted impacted patients, and we are working to reschedule their procedures as soon as possible at a nearby Mass General Brigham or community hospital location," Tom Sequist, MD, CMO of Mass General Brigham, said in a statement shared with Becker's.

Other solutions like bankruptcy or, if approved by the state Legislature, a forced receivership, could be potential options for Steward. Another option is declaring a public health emergency, which would give the state more power over Steward's hospitals, Mr. Chesto wrote.

Ms. Healey declined to address MGB's or any other healthcare organization's role in Steward's future on Jan. 25, according to Mr. Chesto. 

Editors note: This article was updated on Jan. 29 at 1:30pm CST. 

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