CalPERS: SEIU Thwarts Mercy HMO Bid
The California Public Employees' Retirement System recently rejected a bid by Sacramento-based Western Health Advantage to provide health benefits to CalPERS members in its service area, a decision that appears to be influenced by the on-going battle between Mercy Healthcare Sacramento and the Service Employees International Union, the Sacramento Business Journal reports. Co-owned by Mercy, the UC-Davis Health System and Fairfield's NorthBay Health System, Western Health was seeking to become the newest HMO available to CalPERS' 1 million members (Robertson, 6/5). Although CalPERS staff originally had recommended approving the bid, SEIU apparently used its clout to persuade CalPERS officials to nix the deal. The conflict between Mercy and SEIU escalated in January after SEIU attempted to organize Mercy employees, but the effort failed after the union did not receive enough votes. SEIU alleged that Mercy "actively and unlawfully interfered" with its organizing drive. A preliminary ruling by the National Labor Relations Board found that Mercy violated some fair election practices but upheld the results of the vote. Mercy workers have appealed that ruling. At a CalPERS health benefits committee meeting in April, SEIU complained that the premium dollars of CalPERS members should not go to a company that financially benefits Mercy. SEIU represents more than 100,000 state employees who are covered through CalPERS and thousands of municipal employees. "We wanted to make sure that our members' premiums were not being used for union-busting," Dennak Murphy, SEIU's capital stewardship program coordinator, said. Mercy officials said that Western Health was another victim of SEIU's "corporate campaign" against Mercy. Mercy spokesperson Jill Dryer said, "For several years we have been enduring SEIU's attempt to discredit and undermine Mercy Healthcare Sacramento and those associated with us." She added, "It's perplexing to us how SEIU's continuing efforts to undermine our mission and service to the Sacramento community could possibly benefit the community or our employees" (Fisher, Sacramento Bee, 6/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.