3,506 California healthcare workers petition for 15% cap on hospital overcharges, target Stanford Health Care

Healthcare workers filed a ballot initiative that would place a 15 percent ceiling on the amount Palo Alto, Calif.-based hospitals can charge in excess of service costs.

Here are four things to know about the ballot effort.

1. The workers, part of the Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West, submitted 3,506 signatures to Palo Alto election officials May 23. The measure is expected to obtain enough signatures to get on the Nov. 6 ballot.

2. Under the initiative, hospitals, medical clinics and other providers in Palo Alto would be required to refund payers for charges exceeding the 15 percent cap within 180 days of each fiscal year. The refund would include interest and a reduction in a billed amount, according to Palo Alto Online.

3. The union specifically targeted Stanford (Calif.) University Medical Center's billing practices. The union claims the medical center charges 264 percent more than California's average cost to treat patients misusing alcohol and other substances, 141 percent more to treat chest pain and 120 percent more to treat kidney failure patients.

4. While the workers argue the move will make healthcare more affordable for patients, Stanford Health Care officials said the initiative "punishes the residents of Palo Alto in the process" and jeopardizes patient care, a system spokesperson told Palo Alto Online.

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