An influential labor union is attempting to curb both what California hospitals charge patients and what they pay their chief executive officers.
The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) has filed petitions with the California Attorney General's office to put the questions to voters in November 2014.The Fair Healthcare Pricing Act would prohibit hospitals from charging more than 25 percent above the actual cost of providing the care. The Charitable Hospital Executive Compensation Act would limit not-for-profit hospital executives from being compensated no more than what the President of the United States would earn, which is currently $450,000 a year, according to the Associated Press.
"Their unwillingness to date to really take seriously the call to reform the increasing cost and frankly uneven quality around the state has led us here today," SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan said at a press conference last week, according to the Sacramento Bee. "We fundamentally believe that these measures are not only good policy but they represent the desires and the aspirations of a huge majority of Californians."
Hundreds of thousands of signatures from registered voters are necessary to place both initiatives on the ballot.
California's 10 highest-paid not-for-profit hospital executives earned an average of $2.6 million annually, according to Regan. Union officials say the tax-exempt status they enjoy means they have more of an obligation to serve their communities.
A spokesperson for the state's hospital sector expressed disappointment that the petitions were filed, noting that they overshadowed the collaborative agreements both sides have been able to strike in the past year.
"What CHA is not able to do is produce additional union members for SEIU-UHW," California Hospital Association Vice President Jan Emerson-Shea told the Sacramento Bee. "CHA is not an agent for hospitals in labor matters."
The SEIU-UHW was successful in backing a ballot initiative approved by voters last fall that capped the executive pay at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif. to twice what Gov. Jerry Brown is paid. However, the hospital district has sued to overturn the initiative and pay cap has been stayed pending the outcome of the lawsuit.