Union pushes initiative to cap hospital CEO pay, charges

The SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West has launched a signature campaign for two proposed ballot measures that would cap the compensation of not-for-profit hospital CEOs and how much such facilities can charge for care, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The union, which represents about 150,000 hospital employees in California, has hired two political operatives who helped pass a 2012 initiative to raise the state's sales tax and levies on the wealthy.

The proposed initiatives would cap CEO pay at $450,000 a year, the equivalent of what the President of the United States earns. It would also limit not-for-profit hospitals from charging 25 percent above their costs for care.

"The thing that people don't realize is that 75 percent of the beds in California are (operated by) not-for-profit hospitals charging massive amounts above what it costs to deliver care," Steve Trossman, a union spokesman, told the Chronicle.

The union needs 505,000 valid signatures of registered voters by mid-April to place the initiatives on the fall ballot. Its goal is to collect 850,000 signatures.

The compensation of not-for-profit CEOs has become a hot-button issue in recent years, with revelations that hundreds of such leaders earn seven-figure salaries. Pay is even higher at for-profit facilities. Hospital Corporation of America Chief Executive Officer Richard Bracken earned $48 million in pay and stock options in 2012. 

SEIU-UHW was previously successful in passing a local initiative that capped the pay of the chief executive officer of El Camino Hospital, a district facility in the Bay Area city of Mountain View, to twice the salary of the state's governor, or about $350,000. The hospital's board of directors has sued to reverse the decision and the cap has been stayed pending the outcome of the litigation.

To learn more:
- read the San Francisco Chronicle article