[Feb. 11, 2014] SAN FRANCISCO – At John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek they charge $233 for a pair of crutches, while at a Walgreens down the street they cost $23. At California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, a single Ibuprofen costs $18.23, which is 303 times the price found on Amazon.com.
Those are just some of the high prices California healthcare workers revealed today at a news conference near the U.S. Bankruptcy Court as they launched a signature gathering campaign to qualify a statewide ballot initiative that will end overpricing by hospitals. More than 60,000 people in California file for bankruptcy each year due to medical debt. The measure would reduce hospital prices in California by at least $3 billion a year.
“Of all the people in this country who file for bankruptcy, 60 percent of them cite high medical bills as the source of their financial collapse,” said Dave Regan, President of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW). “Our ballot initiative will get outrageous hospital prices under control in California, and help protect consumers from having to file for bankruptcy just because they went to get medical treatment.”
Approximately 505,000 signatures of registered California voters are needed to qualify the initiative for the November 2014 ballot. Signatures must be submitted in mid-April.
In addition to high prices on basic products, like over-the-counter pain medication, some hospitals are charging far above the state average for certain medical procedures. According to state reports, Stanford University Hospital in Palo Alto charges $7,328 for an emergency room visit – which is 2.5 times the state average of $2,098. St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco charges $46,855 to treat someone for drug or alcohol abuse, while the state average is only $20,537.
The statewide ballot initiative, the Fair Healthcare Pricing Act of 2014, prohibits hospitals from charging more than 25 percent above the actual cost of providing patient care. On average, California hospitals charge 320 percent more than the actual cost of providing care in their facilities. The two hospitals that charge the most in the San Francisco Bay Area are the Regional Medical Center of San Jose, which marks up prices 575 percent, and North Bay Medical Center in Fairfield, which marks up prices 534 percent.
Support for – and awareness of – the ballot measure is building. Last week, six state legislators from the Bay Area endorsed the initiative, including Senators Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), and Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) and Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont). Almost 500 paid signature gatherers are fanning out across the state asking voters to qualify the measure for the November 2014 ballot, and a television ad for the initiative began airing yesterday in Sacramento.
According to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, California hospitals subject to this ballot initiative charged $233.8 billion in 2012 – even though their operating expenses were only $54.5 billion. Locally, Stanford University Hospital billed $8.6 billion for operating expenses of $2.1 billion, and California Pacific Medical Center charged $3.5 billion for expenses totaling $963 million.
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Paid for by Yes for a Healthy California, sponsored and major funding by Service Employees International Union, United Health Care Workers West. Additional major funding by State Council of Service Employees Issues Committee.
SEIU—United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is the largest hospital and healthcare union in the western United States with more than 150,000 members. We unite every type of healthcare worker with a mission to achieve high-quality healthcare for all. SEIU-UHW is part of the 2.2 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation’s fastest-growing union. Learn more at www.seiu-uhw.org.