Healthcare workers, hospitals agree to drop minimum charity care, pricing caps

A major healthcare labor union in California has reached an agreement with the state's hospitals to drop ballot initiatives that would have put charity care floors and pricing caps on many facilities, both groups announced last week.

The SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) and California Hospital Association (CHA) have agreed to explore ways to lower healthcare costs and improve the quality of care, according to California HealthLine. The CHA also has agreed to implement communications between its member facilities that are not unionized.

The agreement is a way "to make durable, lasting, meaningful change to a system that everybody understands has to change dramatically and quickly," SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan told the Los Angeles Times .

The SEIU-UHW had collected more than enough signatures to get initiatives on the November 2012 ballot that would have capped hospital billing to 25 percent above its costs and compel hospitals to spend at least 5 percent of its revenue on charitable care, noted California Healthline. However, large providers, such as Kaiser Permanente, would have been exempt from the initiative, primarily because it has a long-term contract in place with the union, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"Both sides were hoping we could avoid an all-out war at the ballot box," Jan Emerson-Shea of the California Hospital Association told the Los Angeles Times. "That didn't really serve anybody's objectives."

For more:
- read the California HealthLine article
- here's the LA Times article
- read the joint statement