Sacramento Healthcare Workers Launch Initiative Drive to End Hospital Price Gouging

Caregivers and Community Leaders Start Signature Collection Outside of Sutter General

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Fed up with outrageous hospital prices like $21 for a single aspirin, $86 for an Ace bandage or more than $750 for an hour of physical therapy, healthcare workers in Sacramento launched a signature gathering drive Wednesday for two ballot initiatives that will end hospital price gouging and expand charity care for the needy. The initiatives are sponsored by healthcare workers who are members of SEIU-UHW.

On average, California hospitals charge more than four times their costs and up to 1000 percent, which leads to exorbitant healthcare bills and high insurance rates for patients.

Sutter General Hospital is no different. On average patients there are overcharged by 426 percent. For example, the hospital charges almost $18 for a single 250 mg capsule of Amoxicillin, $44 for ten ounces of body lotion, and nearly $40 for a 5 mg tablet Ambien.

Additionally, the nonprofit Sutter Medical Center has more than $3.2 billion in reserves.

Hospital workers like Susie Boedecker of Sacramento, say they are motivated to action by the high cost of healthcare – the No. 1 reason for personal bankruptcy in the United States.

“Charging innocent patients as much as 1,000 percent of cost is driving the rapid increase of healthcare costs. Outrageous healthcare costs affect all of us – whether you have insurance or not. It’s time to make hospitals accountable,” she said.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris cleared the way for healthcare workers – who are members of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West – to begin gathering signatures for the Charity Care Act of 2012 and the Fair Healthcare Pricing Act of 2012 at the end of January. In the first two weeks, they have collected more than 150,000 signatures.

Thousands of committed activists, healthcare workers and others began appearing at malls, grocery stores, churches and even hospital cafeterias last week to collect signatures by the mid-April deadline. Healthcare workers must collect 1.7 million signatures to qualify the initiatives for the November 2012 election.

“In what world is it okay for nonprofit hospitals to charge consumers four or five times their cost, pay no taxes and then give back less than 2 percent of their revenue in charity care for the needy?” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-UHW. “This is a perverse model and healthcare workers are leading the charge to let voters change it.”

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Elizabeth Brennan, 213-999-2164

KEYWORDS:   United States  North America  California

INDUSTRY KEYWORDS:   Health  Hospitals  Professional Services  Insurance  Medical Supplies  General Health  Managed Care