Safety-net hospitals, unions fight reimbursement disparities

Hospitals and union workers have joined forces to boost reimbursements to community and safety-net hospitals in Massachusetts, The Boston Globe reported.

Steward Health Care System, which owns several safety nets, and Local 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East yesterday launched the Massachusetts Healthcare Equality and Affordability League to fight payment inequalities that favor a handful high-cost wealthy Boston hospitals.

The league will use grass-roots efforts to lobby state and federal governments, including community outreach and media campaigns, to end underpayments by private insurers and Medicaid to community hospitals, reported The Patrior Ledger.

"Just because you're poor, your hospital shouldn't get half as much to take care of you as they get in the richer neighborhoods," Steward CEO Ralph de la Torre told the Globe. "These are the issues we have to address, or else community hospitals are going to go extinct. And then health costs are really going to go up for everybody."

To fight the funding disparities, the healthcare workers' union last week proposed a budget amendment that would give a larger portion of new Medicaid funds to hospitals that see a higher percentage of Medicaid and Medicare patients, according to the 1199SEIU.

"There is still of course much more to be said and done about the disparities in payments by private insurers that are threatening the availability of convenient, affordable, quality care for the majority of Massachusetts consumers," 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Veronica Turner said last week in a statement. "The healthcare workers of 1199SEIU are going to ensure that conversation happens soon in a very public way as part of our mission to stand up for our patients and protect quality care in the Bay State."

The league hopes its membership will expand to include other safety-net hospitals in Massachusetts, as well as gain the support of other unions and patients who receive care at community and safety-net hospitals, the Globe noted.

For more:
- here's the Globe article
- read the Patriot Ledger article
- here's the 1199SEIU statement

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