Ballot Proposals Take Aim at Hospitals

A California union filed paperwork Friday to launch two ballot measures that would curb salaries of hospital executives and impose limits on the prices hospitals charge for care.

The proposals were submitted Friday to the state Attorney General’s office in Sacramento by representatives of the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West union. It’s the first step in a long process to try to get the measures on the November, 2014 ballot.  

“These two initiatives will end the practice of hospitals charging patients on average 320% above what it costs them to provide care, and bring down the outrageous salaries paid to hospital executives, most of whom work for nonprofit institutions,” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-UHW, in a written statement.

Regan said data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development showed huge markups in pricing for care. Hospitals in 2011 charged $233.6 billion for care that cost them only $63.7 billion, he said.

Jan Emerson-Shea, vice president for external affairs at the California Hospital Association, said it’s regrettable that the union has singled out not-for-profit hospitals in the ballot proposals.

“CHA and SEIU-UHW have jointly accomplished many of the goals that we established in our May 2012 agreement including collaborating on legislation … and creating a healthier workforce,” Emerson-Shea said. “What CHA is not able to do is produce additional union members for SEIU-UHW.”

The two initiative proposals, she said, “put a cloud over the accomplishments that have been mutually beneficial to health care workers, hospitals and patients.”

The proposed measures:

  • The Fair Healthcare Pricing Act of 2014 would limit patient charges to 25% above actual cost.
  • The Charitable Hospital Executive Compensation Act of 2014 would cap salaries of executives of not-for-profit hospital systems. An upper limit of $450,000 would match the salary of the U.S. President, according to the measure. Union officials said the combined salaries of the top 10 executives of not-for-profit hospitals averaged $2.6 million.

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