Exemptions Included in SEIU’s Proposed Ballot Measures Raise Queries
Two initiatives that the Service Employees International Union is seeking to put on the November ballot would have a major effect on healthÂ care facilitiesÂ where the union has been unable to organize and exempt those where many SEIU members work, the Los Angeles Times reports (Mishak, Los Angeles Times, 3/10).
About the Initiatives
Under one initiative -- the Fair Healthcare Pricing Act of 2012 -- hospitals would be prohibited from charging fees that are more than 25% above the actual cost of services.
The other initiative -- called the Charity Care Act of 2012 -- would require some not-for-profit hospitals to spend at least 5% of patient revenue on health care for low-income patients. State law currently requires charity care, but specifies no minimum amount.
SEIU has saidÂ the initiativesÂ are designed toÂ stop "hospital price gouging" (California Healthline, 2/15).
Critics said the proposals would not be able to successfully curb medical inflation or address inadequate charity care.
According to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office and the state Department of Finance, the initiatives could cause hospitals to eliminate services, raise rates or reduce staff (California Healthline, 2/15).
Exemptions in Question
According to legislative analysts, at least 25% of private hospitals would be exempt from the initiatives, in addition to all public hospitals, where the government provides reimbursements for certain treatments.
Dignity Health -- the largest hospital chain in the state -- and Kaiser Permanente -- California's largest HMO -- would be exempt from the measures. SEIU represents a combined total of 60,000 workers in those systems.
Hospitals industry officials and patient advocates have said theÂ exemptions would give a greater competitive advantage to health providers that already dominant the market.
Jamie Court -- president of Consumer Watchdog -- said there is "no good reason" to exempt Dignity and Kaiser from the proposed rules.
SEIU Defends Exemptions
Union officials defended the exemptions for Dignity and Kaiser,Â noting thatÂ Dignity already is California's largest provider of care for low-income residents and that Kaiser manages its own insurance and has different financial reporting requirements than other hospitals.
Dave Regan -- an SEIU executive vice president -- said that despite the exemptions, the ballot measures still would affect hospitals where about 30,000 SEIU members work.
He noted that although Dignity and Kaiser would be exempt from the proposed initiatives, the measures still would "affect three-fourths of the industry." He added, "If people want to criticize that we only got three-fourths then so be it" (Los Angeles Times, 3/10).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.