Latest Steward Twist: Deal With Optum Is Off

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By Colin A. Young
State House News Service

The sale of Steward Health Care’s physician network to for-profit insurer Optum is off, state officials confirmed, underscoring the uncertainty swirling around the bankrupt hospital system and the future of its hospitals and providers in Massachusetts.

Optum informed the state’s Health Policy Commission that it is no longer working to finalize an agreement with Steward concerning the sale of Stewardship Health to Optum Care, but the companies have not yet withdrawn the deal’s material change notice filings with the Health Policy Commission, the agency said.

The potential sale was first announced in March, but the two large medical providers never submitted information necessary for the Health Policy Commission to begin a review that would have been required for the sale to go through. A slew of state and federal lawmakers raised concerns about the potential sale. Massachusetts House Speaker Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy) said in March that the sale “has the potential to significantly impact the competitiveness of the health care market in Massachusetts, and cause further disruption during a period of acute instability in the health care system.”

Spokesmen for Optum did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The DOJ regulatory review process was challenging;  Steward and United Optum have decided not to move forward,” Steward said in a written statement during the afternoon of Friday, June 28. “Stewardship Health remains a valuable asset that provides excellent care for its patients; there are multiple other parties that remain interested in acquiring the business and Steward is in active negotiations.”

The sale of Stewardship Health is a key part of Steward’s bankruptcy restructuring, a process that is still playing out with bids due for Massachusetts hospitals next month. One investment banker working on Steward’s behalf told U.S. Bankruptcy Court that the sale of Stewardship was the company’s “attempt to deleverage and secure liquidity for use in their operations.”