By Tim Hunt
Health care cost measure is a mess in LivermoreUploaded: Aug 30, 2018
Livermore voters will face an initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot that simply should not be decided by voters.
Measure U asks voters give the city the authority to regulate health care costs and ensure that they do not exceed 15 percent of the “reasonable cost of direct patient care.”
The initiative was circulated by the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Workers West. The union gathered enough signatures to require the City Council to either put it on the ballot or adopt the measure. Palo Alto voters face a similar measure, while the union dropped the measure in Pleasanton when it failed to gather enough signatures. Here’s wishing that Livermore voters paid a bit more attention before signing the petitions.
This is not a local measure. It should be debated in the Legislature, as frightening as that thought is (remember, the state Senate passed a single-payer health care plan last year that was devoid of any details or funding mechanism—fortunately Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon acted like an adult and never brought the measure forward).
That said, the SEIU healthcare workers long have targeted Stanford Health Care-Valley to try and organize the workers. It’s no accident that Stanford’s home, Palo Alto, has a similar measure.
The city challenged the petition in court, but Judge Kimberly L. Colwell denied the city’s request to keep the measure off the ballot. The Kaiser Foundation, Stanford/Valley Care, the California Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association all submitted briefs supporting the city’s position.
If voters approve the measure (look for some hefty campaign expenditures from local hospitals and health care providers), it requires the city to allocate money from the general fund to allow the Community Development Dept. to gather the information, evaluate it, determine if rebates are required and then make the information publicly available.
The city’s analysis of the measure estimated annual costs of $1.9 million after $750,000 of set-up costs.
While the city lost the case it filed, it also came up short on a challenge to the ballot language. The city attorney will have to rewrite the summary of the measure after Judge Colwell granted a writ of mandate Tuesday to Livermore resident Linda Guthrie.
That will have to be done quickly because the ballot deadline looms quickly. The new language, presumably, will have to be approved by the SEIU and potentially the judge.
Livermore Mayor John Marchand had it right in an East Bay Times article when he was quoted, “This is really a sledgehammer to resolve this. This is a labor dispute.”
It’s easy to be frustrated with the health care system since ObamaCare blew it up and sent costs soaring. Demanding a local municipality become the cost control agent is simply crazy.