Facilities News Perspective

DignityMA Globe Letters on Private Equity

Both former Senator Richard Moore and Margaret Morganroth Gullette published Letters to the Editor in the March 5 Boston Globe in response to several articles on the problems of Steward Health Care and private equity. Both letters are reprinted below.

For-profit tendrils are making their way into nursing homes, other sites by Richard T. Moore

The reported financial problems of Steward Health Care are not unique. For several years, nursing homes, hospice providers, and, more recently, physician practices have been plagued by the acquisition of sites within their systems, the sale and lease-back of facilities through real estate investment trusts, cutting of caregiving staff, and nonpayment of vendors.

Governor Maura Healey should be commended for demanding audited financial reports from Steward in order to better understand what’s gone wrong and take appropriate action to serve the best interests of patients and hospital staff (“Healey ups the heat on Steward,” Page A1, Feb. 21). However, the Healey administration needs to take a more comprehensive approach to health care finances, not only of other hospitals but also in the ownership and financial management of long-term care providers across the state.

Nursing homes, in particular, have experienced death by a thousand cuts in recent years as nonprofit owners sold out to for-profit companies, which themselves are increasingly owned by private equity firms and real estate investment trusts. Some have closed; others have increased charges while cutting staff and quality of care in an effort to increase returns for investors.

State leaders need to expand the call for transparency and accountability to include long-term care.

Richard T. Moore, Uxbridge
The writer is a former Senate chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Health Care Financing and was the lead Senate negotiator in the passage of the 2012 health care cost-containment law. He is also a cofounder and legislative chair of Dignity Alliance Massachusetts.

Investigate the perilous condition of nursing facilities by Margaret Morganroth Gullette

Private equity has put health care in an unholy mess. In his March 1 op-ed, “Steward Health Care should face a full-scale criminal investigation,” Robert Kuttner advocates for federal and state agencies to take a close look at Steward to see which laws might have been broken. However, Steward is only a big recent example of the corporate ability throughout the health care industry to loot enterprises and exact profits (and amass more than six-figure salaries).

Who is spotlighting nursing facilities that also place profits over people? In Massachusetts our vulnerable residents died in disproportionate numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic. About two-thirds of facilities in the state are for-profit, but nonprofits can also be questionable. Closures terrify residents and create stress for their families, and they can be a signal of deeper financial concerns or even malfeasance. Four facilities closed last year in the western part of the state without the Department of Public Health putting any legal delays in their way. In Roxbury the once-renowned Benjamin Healthcare Center has announced that it will close, sending its residents who knows where, after how long a wait. Meanwhile, its CEO, Tony Francis, took home a base salary of $628,592 in 2021.

To the governor, attorney general, health and human services secretary, and public health commissioner, I say: Fix these grievous situationsbefore the damage to our elders occurs. Audit, survey, respond to complaints; put the worst cases into receivership if necessary. Lawmakers, take action on reform bills in front of you. Time is short. We are all waiting for age justice.

Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Newton
The writer is the author of “Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People.”