Ballot measures in 2 California cities take aim at healthcare costs

Voters in two California cities will decide two ballot measures that aim to curb healthcare costs, according to a Kaiser Health News report.

In Palo Alto, voters will decide for or against placing a 15 percent cap on the amount Palo Alto-based hospitals can charge in excess of direct patient care costs. Hospitals, medical clinics and other providers in Palo Alto would have to refund payers for charges exceeding the 15 percent cap within 180 days of each fiscal year.

A similar measure is also on the ballot in Livermore.

Both ballot measures are sponsored by the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West and target Stanford (Calif.) Health Care, according to the report.

Stanford Health Care opposes the measures, arguing they would threaten the system's "ability to provide top-quality healthcare to patients" and significantly reduce its budget. According to the report, opponents also argue city officials don't have the expertise to establish a bureaucracy to regulate local healthcare costs.

Union officials told Kaiser Health News their goal with the ballot measures is to curb healthcare prices.

"Stanford Health is nonprofit. They don't pay property taxes or incomes taxes," Sean Wherley, an SEIU-UHW spokesperson, told the publication. "Taxpayers are subsidizing their operations and getting wrung out by over-the-top prices."

Stanford University officials estimate the Palo Alto initiative, if passed, would "reduce Stanford Health Care's budget by 25 percent, requiring significant cutbacks and the possible closure of many services and programs that are essential to high quality healthcare in the local area."

An analysis by health economist Henry Zaretsky found Livermore would have to spend $1.9 million annually on the staff required to implement the ballot measure if it passes, according to the report.

Residents will vote on the measures Nov. 6.  


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