Spending on California ballot initiatives over hospital charges exceeds $7M

Hospitals in northern California and a union's campaign committee have collectively spent millions related to two ballot measures that aim to curb healthcare costs, according to a Palo Alto Weekly report. 

In Palo Alto, Calif., voters will decide for or against placing a 15 percent cap on the amount healthcare providers in the city can charge in excess of direct patient care costs. Hospitals, medical clinics and other Palo Alto providers 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, Calif.

As of Oct. 20, hospitals had spent $4.9 million toward defeating the measures, according to the report.

California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, Stanford (Calif.) Health Care and Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Foundation Health Plan are the top three funders in opposition to both measures. Sacramento-based Sutter Health has also contributed to the opposition effort.

"Sutter Health, Stanford Health Care and Kaiser Permanente are part of a coalition of more than 1,000 doctors, dentists, optometrists, nurses and community members who oppose [the measures]," Duane Dauner, director of the opposition campaign called Protect Our Local Hospitals and Health Care, told Becker's. "Sutter Health's Palo Alto Medical Foundation has been serving the community since 1930. The city councils of Livermore and Palo Alto are unanimously opposed to the measures in their cities as well."

The measures "claim to limit healthcare prices to fixed city-government regulated costs. Instead, according to doctors, nurses [and] public health experts, the initiative will only reduce healthcare quality and access," he said.

The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West sponsored both initiatives. As of Oct. 20, the union's campaign had spent $2.4 million to promote measures in both California cities.

SEIU-UHW spokesperson Sean Wherley argued in The Stanford Daily the measure will provide accountability for local healthcare providers.

"This is about transparency [and] letting people understand how much [they] are being charged, and why [they] are being charged so much more than the clinic down the street or in the neighboring community," he told the publication. "This is our chance as an organization to get healthcare costs under control."

Voters will decide the measures on Nov. 6.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on Nov. 2.


More articles on healthcare finance: 

RCM tip of the day: Bring healthcare 'prosumers' into the revenue cycle
27% of families are putting off medical care because of costs, survey finds
Mississippi hospitals end Medicare Advantage agreements over declining reimbursement

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