Senator Markey Chairs Congressional Hearing in Boston, Announces New Legislative Agenda for Protecting Access to Care from Corporate Greed | U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts

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Amidst Steward hospital crisis, health care leaders, nurses, and elected officials spoke about the impact of profit-driven forces on access to health care

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Senator Markey chairs a Senate HELP Subcommittee field hearing in Boston: “When Health Care Becomes Wealth Care: How Corporate Greed Puts Patient Care and Health Workers at Risk”

Boston (April 3, 2024) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), joined by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), today chaired a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security field hearing titled, “When Health Care Becomes Wealth Care: How Corporate Greed Puts Patient Care and Health Workers at Risk” and released his new legislative agendathat calls for transparency and accountability for private equity in health care; protecting patients, providers, and workers; and guaranteeing health care for all.

Senator Markey’s agenda creates immediate safeguards to protect communities against the negative consequences of for-profit forces, including private equity; strengthens the health system to prevent closures; improves access to primary care; and controls the corporatization of health care. Senator Markey released a discussion draft of the Health over Wealth Act for public comment, which 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 also announced the State Based Universal Health Care Act to create a health system that ensures access to care for every American by investing in community health, health workers, and health infrastructure, in order to pave the way for Medicare for All. The bill would allow states to obtain a “super waiver” from the Department of Health and Human Services to provide comprehensive, universal health coverage to all residents. Cosponsors include Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17).

“Greedy corporate executives like Steward Health Care CEO Dr. Ralph de la Torre are failing in their responsibility to providers, patients, and communities,” said Senator Markey. “In Massachusetts and across the country, they are deploying promises for profit, which is why I launched my agenda to put health care over wealth care. My agenda, including my new Health over Wealth Act, will ensure transparency, accountability, protections for patients and providers, and guarantee access to care for every community in the country. I am committed to preventingSteward’s failures from becoming America’s health care standard.”

“Today’s hearing revealed how a billion-dollar deal that enriched Steward’s private equity owners and its CEO left the hospitals in shambles,” said Senator Warren. “We need to hold the executives who drove these hospitals into financial collapse accountable and ensure private equity can’t repeat this same trick. My Stop Wall Street Looting Act would fundamentally reform the private equity industry, and I’m also introducing new legislation to give the federal government authority to claw back compensation from both health care executives and Wall Street investors whose predatory financial engineering endangers health care entities.”

“The emergency department serves as the front door to the community and what we are seeing is an alarming indication that we are way beyond the breaking point,” said Dr. Ellana Stinson, President of New England Medical Association. “If we don’t act now, these financial practices in medicine will have rippling effects on this country that permeates far beyond health care. We should all be concerned.”

“At a time when the private equity industry’s influence in healthcare is surging, this hearing marks a crucial juncture,” said Eileen O’Grady, Research & Campaign Director at Private Equity Stakeholder Project. “With private equity’s assets under management rising to over $13.1 trillion, the rapid expansion of private equity firms raises significant concerns. Their profit-driven model, fueled by high debt and short-term gains, poses a stark challenge to the provision of quality, affordable healthcare. From mental health facilities to essential medical equipment, private equity’s pervasive reach threatens the very core of healthcare accessibility. Alarmingly, nearly one in ten private hospitals, including vital rural and safety-net institutions, are now under private equity ownership. This trend is deeply troubling as it often prioritizes profit margins over patient well-being, leading to deteriorating care standards, financial mismanagement, and community hardship. To unravel the complexities of private equity’s impact on healthcare, a deeper understanding of its profit-centric business model is imperative, and hearings like this one are an important step to protect this country’s healthcare system.”

“As nurses, we see firsthand how our profit-driven health care system endangers patients and health care workers.” said Hannah Drummond, Emergency Department RN at Mission Hospital and National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United. “Hospital corporations are consistently choosing to cut essential services and understaff our hospitals in order to maximize profit. Those decisions are putting patients and communities at risk every single day. Health care should not be run like a business; it should be provided as a human right. This is why nurses support the transition to a single-payer Medicare for All health care system, that would remove the profit-motive in health care and guarantee high quality care to every person living in our country. We thank Senator Markey for his leadership in holding this hearing to call for increased transparency and accountability of private equity and profit-driven health care corporations. We look forward to working together to develop additional legislative proposals to protect patients, health care workers, and the public and to improve our health care system.”

“Private equity manipulations and unrestrained profit-seeking are damaging American health care,” said Dr. Donald Berwick, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow at the 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 hearing and the Health over Wealth Act are welcome, indeed.”

Senator Markey has been elevating the voices of health workers, patients, communities, and other stakeholders as Steward Health Care—which operates nine health care facilities across Massachusetts and thirty-two nationwide—is currently facing significant financial insecurity as a result of previously accumulated debt. Steward Health Care was previously owned by Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity company that generated $800 million in profit from Steward. Steward’s inability to pay its debt has resulted in financial instability among several of the hospitals it owns in Massachusetts and nationally, creating a risk to patients and health providers in Massachusetts communities and across the country.

On March 27, Senator Markey held a listening session with Massachusetts state officials, health and labor organizers, and other stakeholders about the impact of profit-driven forces on access to health care, where individuals representing communities that have been impacted by the Steward crisis shared their perspectives. Previously, Senator Markey toured the Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Massachusetts, and met with workers and providers calling for continuity of care in the wake of the Steward crisis.

Senator Markey has been demanding transparency and accountability through oversight by calling out corporate greed in health care. Specifically:

  • Senators Markey and Warren blasted Steward Chairman and CEO for years of financial mismanagement and executive profiteering that led to Steward’s financial crisis, threatening the wellbeing of patients and health care workers. 
  • In March, Senator Markey led an investigation into the role of private equity investment in opioid treatment programs and how these investments impact access to methadone, an opioid use disorder treatment which can reduce risk of overdose by 50%. 
  • In January 2024, Senators Markey and Warren and Congresswoman Pressley urged Walgreens CEO Tim Wentworth to not close its Roxbury store, after a pattern of closures in Black and Latino neighborhoods in Boston and across the country. 
  • In January 2024, Senators Markey, Sanders, Baldwin and Lujan launched an investigation into the high prices of inhalers manufactured by AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and Teva. GSK, AstraZeneca, and BI have since capped the out-of-pocket costs to $35 per month. 
  • In December 2023, Senators Markey joined his Senate colleagues’ concerns over private equity-owned, for-profit prison health care provider Wellpath’s denials and delays in time-sensitive care, negligence and failure to follow treatment plans and internal policies, and inappropriate use of restraint and solitary confinement for people with mental health disabilities.

In January 2024, following a Boston Globe report revealing Steward Health Care System’s dire financial condition, Senators Markey and Warren led the Massachusetts delegation in a letter to Steward pressing them on their financial position, the status of their facilities in Massachusetts, and their plans to ensure the communities they serve are not abandoned. In December 2022, Senator Markey led members of the Massachusetts delegation in a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to sound the alarm on barriers patients face in accessing health care as a result of closures, service reductions, mergers, and for-profit acquisitions of hospitals in Massachusetts and across the United States.

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