Judge Orders Prime Healthcare to Reimburse Centinela Hospital Employees’ Healthcare Costs

Company Owes Employees Millions of Dollars

Judge Orders Prime Healthcare to Reimburse Centinela Hospital Employees’ Healthcare Costs

<0> For SEIU United Healthcare Workers-WestSean Wherley, 323-893-6831 </0>

Calling Prime Healthcare “disingenuous,” “evasive” and “less than serious,” a National Labor Relations Board judge has found that Prime Healthcare negotiated in bad faith and must reimburse employees at its Centinela Medical Center in Inglewood for increased healthcare costs they incurred after the company illegally tried to reduce workers’ healthcare benefits.

The decision affects almost 700 members of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), who are eligible for up to $8,800 in reimbursements from Prime – or potentially more than $6 million – just for their premiums.

In January 2011 the company falsely claimed an “impasse” in contract negotiations and improperly forced workers to pay more for their family healthcare coverage, ruled Administrative Law Judge Gerald Etchingham. A properly declared impasse allows a company to unilaterally impose its own terms and conditions.

“The judge’s decision means employees and our families will get the healthcare we need, and that Prime will have to pay us back for all the costs we shouldn’t have paid in the first place,” said Hernando Torres, Registration Associate in the Admitting Department at Centinela Medical Center. “It never made sense that the company would eliminate healthcare coverage for the same people who work in a hospital every day. This is Prime’s opportunity to start over and we urge them to bargain in good faith.”

Etchingham said the company refused to provide documents and information union members had a right to review during negotiations and failed to bargain in good faith with the union, and therefore Prime could not require employees to pay more for their health insurance plans beginning in January 2011.

Prime Healthcare recently disclosed it is under federal investigation for alleged overbilling of Medicare. The hospital chain diagnosed more than 1,000 seniors with an extremely rare form of malnutrition typically found among starving children in impoverished nations.