The Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West has withdrawn one ballot initiative that would have capped hospital executive pay and another that would have set strict limits on hospital pricing.
The agreement with the California Hospital Association calls for a $100 million, two-year campaign to overhaul Medi-Cal, which is the state’s health care system for the poor. Dave Regan with SEIU-UHW says improving Medi-Cal would be too big a job for one group.
At a teleconference, SEIU-UHW West President Dave Regan said the union had signed an agreement with the California Hospital Association Monday night that would run through Dec. 31, 2017. The agreement includes creation of a $100 million joint advocacy committee that would reform Medi-Cal and improve the health care delivery system in California, he said.
The ballot initiatives — one a fair pricing initiative to limit hospital charges to no more than 25% above the cost of providing care and the other to limit hospital executive pay — have been dropped, Regan said.
“We all recognize we could go to the ballot, but that would expend an enormous amount of money and may or may not succeed,” Regan said.
Instead, the union and hospitals will work to “raise quality, lower costs, make California healthier and develop a new labor-employer relationship,” Regan said.
A key component of the agreement is the establishment of a $100 million joint advocacy committee to reform Medi-Cal, the state-federal insurance program for people with low incomes, said Duane Dauner, president and chief executive of the hospital association.
California is 49th among states in the amount it reimburses providers for Medi-Cal patient care. The committee could tackle not only Medi-Cal reform for California but national Medicaid reform, he said.
Dauner said details of the agreement and how much each side would contribute to the $100 million advocacy committee would not be made public.
He also would not say how many hospitals have signed on to the agreement, which includes hospitals and the union agreeing to a “code of conduct” that emphasizes positive, constructive problem-solving.
In opposing the ballot initiatives, the hospital association said the measures were an attempt by the union to gain members and leverage nonunion hospitals into neutrality agreements that would allow the union to come in to organize.
On Tuesday, Dauner and Regan said the goal of the agreement is cooperation and collaboration to address the causes of rising health care costs.
Regan said the agreement is a new approach to bargaining and one that likely will raise eyebrows in the labor community.
“Unions in America are in steep decline,” Regan said. The union recognizes that “if we do not stabilize the health care program, mainly Medi-Cal that serves one in five Californians, that we will not have a hospital industry that is stable, high quality and properly funded.”