Harvard doctors agree to drop late-night ED surcharge

Under pressure from a health workers' union, a Boston-area group of Harvard physicians has agreed to drop a $30 surcharge it was tacking onto bills for emergency care provided between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. The workers' group, the Service Employees International Union, is also asking the physicians' group to issue refunds to patients who were charged the fee.

The move affects hospitals served by the medical practice, including Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians, Beth Israel Deaconess-Needham and three other suburban hospitals.

While the union may have scored political points, its victory may be largely symbolic. Medicare and Medicaid already refuse to pay such surcharges, as well as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Tufts Health Plan and Aetna, according to news reports.

The union's tactic is most likely an attempt to put further pressure on one of the hospitals, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. It's no coincidence that a Israel Deaconess Medical Center hospital was caught up in the union's challenge. BIDMC has faced particularly intense pressure from the SEIU, which is in the process of unionizing workers there.

To learn more about the surcharge controversy:
- read this piece in The Boston Globe

Related Articles:
BIDMC uses lean production approach
Beth Israel, union fight war of words
Union targets Boston teaching hospital