Lawmakers seek health care and retirement protections for Steward Health Care workers

BOSTON — A group of Democratic members of Congress, led by Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, are seeking reassurance that workers at hospitals owned by Steward Health Care will have their health care and retirement benefits protected.

Steward said last month that he plans to do so sell all its hospitals after he announced that filed for bankruptcy protection.

In a letter to Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su, Markey said Monday that Steward’s bankruptcy “raises concerns for the nearly 30,000 employees, including nearly 10,000 in Massachusetts, who rely on Steward Health Care for their wages, health care plans and retirement benefits.” ”

“We are writing to request that the U.S. Department of Labor ensure that Steward employees and retirees receive the health care and retirement benefits to which they are entitled. Employees and retirees must be protected from further harm resulting from Steward’s gross financial mismanagement,” Markey wrote.

Steward representatives did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on what steps, if any, the company has taken to ensure employees receive their benefits.

The Dallas-based company, which operates more than 30 hospitals across the country, has said it expects no disruptions to the daily operations of its hospitals during the Chapter 11 process.

Markey said many workers who rely on Steward Health Care for their livelihood are already facing financial uncertainty and fear. In Massachusetts, he said, paychecks to Steward employees were delayed after the bankruptcy filing because of processing delays.

Markey and the other lawmakers are asking the Department of Labor to take steps to protect workers, including establishing Steward’s plan for continued benefits during bankruptcy and in the event of a facility closure or buyout and ensuring that health claims are covered during the entire bankruptcy process must be paid. .

“While responsibility for this crisis rests solely with Steward and his industry associates, a solution to this crisis that protects employees, patients and communities requires commitment and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities,” Markey said in the letter.

In addition to Massachusetts, Steward also employs employees in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

The letter was also signed by Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and John Fetterman of Pennsylvania and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Stephen Lynch, James McGovern and Seth Moulton of all of Massachusetts, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas also signed the letter.