On Wednesday, the Service Employees International Union and the California Hospital Association announced an agreement that will enlist CHA in the union's organizing efforts in exchange for SEIU dropping proposed ballot initiatives that sought to limit hospital billing and boost charity care, the Los Angeles Times' "PolitiCal" reports.
The deal comes after months of negotiations, according to "PolitiCal."
Private hospitals had accused SEIU of leveraging the proposed ballot initiatives in contract negotiations to force expansion of its membership, which the union denied (Mishak, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 5/2).
Under one initiative -- the Fair Healthcare Pricing Act of 2012 -- hospitals would have been 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 have required 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 said the initiatives were designed to stop "hospital price gouging."
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, 3/12).
Details of the Agreement
According to the agreement, CHA will facilitate meetings between SEIU and CEOs of hospitals and health systems that have more than 100,000 non-union employees. However, those hospitals are not required to sign organizing agreements.
In return, SEIU will not file ballot proposal petition signatures with county election officials and the secretary of state's office ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 5/2). According to Payers & Providers, the union had collected about 850,000 signatures for each initiative. The signatures were in the process of being verified when the two groups reached the agreement (Payers & Providers, 5/3).
SEIU and CHA portrayed the deal as a collaboration designed to tackle major challenges in health care, such as devising strategies to lower costs, improve quality and expand access.
The groups downplayed the organizing portion of the deal, according to "PolitiCal."
Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, said, "This agreement is not a labor-relations agreement," adding that it is a way "to make durable, lasting, meaningful change to a system that everybody understands has to change dramatically and quickly" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 5/2).