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Steward Health Care selling major part of operations to Optum Care

Struggling Steward Health Care selling physician network to Optum Care
Struggling Steward Health Care selling physician network to Optum Care 00:47

BOSTON - The struggling Steward Health Care Network is selling off a major part of its operations as millions of dollars in debt piles up.

The hospital group filed notice with the state of Massachusetts Tuesday that Optum Care, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, will buy Steward's physician network.

Steward doctors would work for Optum Care

That would mean that doctors who work at Steward centers in nine different states would soon be employed by Optum Care.

The proposed sale does not apply to the physical hospitals, but Tuesday's filings suggest that more transactions could be coming.

Sale under review in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) an independent state agency charged with monitoring health care spending, still needs to review the proposed sale.

"This is a significant proposed change involving two large medical providers, both in Massachusetts and nationally, with important implications for the delivery and cost of health care across Massachusetts. Details of the proposal will be reviewed by the HPC to examine potential impacts on health care costs, quality, access, and equity. The sale cannot be completed until after the HPC's review and any concurrent review by state or federal antitrust authorities," HPC Executive Director David Seltz said in a statement.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said the sale proposal "raises more serious questions about the future of the Massachusetts health care system."

"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," Warren said in a statement.

Massachusetts Congressman Jake Auchincloss was also skeptical.

"The prospect of UnitedHealth Group purchasing Stewardship Health is alarming. UnitedHealth, a Fortune 5 leviathan already under federal antitrust investigation, has spent five decades corporatizing healthcare to the detriment of patients and physicians. My constituents in southeastern Massachusetts should not be next in line."

Steward hospitals in Massachusetts

Steward currently owns ten hospitals in Massachusetts - Morton Hospital in Taunton, St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Brighton, New England Sinai Hospital in Stoughton, Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Holy Family Hospital in Haverhill, Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, Carney Hospital in Dorchester, St. Anne's Hospital in Fall River, Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer and Norwood Hospital.

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