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Latest News - May 2014

May 6, 2014
A tale of two health care unions, two different actions
Source: SFgate
By: Victoria Colliver

The state’s largest health care workers’ union — SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West – dropped its bid Tuesday to pass two state ballot measures opposed by the hospital industry as part of an agreement it reached with the California Hospital Association.

On the same day, several hundred nurses represented by the California Nurses Association rallied outside Kaiser‘s Oakland headquarters, accusing the HMO of amassing billions in reserves while raising rates for its members. The nurses were backing a ballot measure that would give state regulators the power to reject excessive rate hikes.

Two large, politically powerful health care unions. Two very different approaches.

The initiatives SEIU-UHW abandoned focused on hospital overpricing and high executive compensation at nonprofit hospitals. One measure would have prohibited hospitals from charging patients more than 25 percent above the estimated cost of care, while the other would have capped senior executive pay at $450,000 a year, the same salary as the U.S. president.

Instead of going that route, SEIU-UHW and the hospital association said Tuesday they created a $100 million fund to try to improve the state’s Medi-Cal program. One problem they cited was that reimbursements to doctors and hospitals are low, with California ranking 49th among the 50 states in terms of those payments. Neither group would go into great detail about the agreement, nor about the amount each would spend.

SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan described campaigns involving union representation and contracts as “unrelentingly negative” on the part of both the union and the employer and said the collaboration represented a new era for the warring sides.

Officials from the California Nurses Association declined to comment on the strange timing of the different approaches of these union giants. The nurses, instead, rallied against the rate hikes and threw their support behind the rate regulation measure, which is backed by Consumer Watchdog. The nurses’ labor contract with Kaiser expires in August.



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