Health workers say funding disparities pose major threat to Massachusetts community hospitals

Caregivers call on state senate for change to Medicaid funding approach

May 21, 2013, 12:48 ET from 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East

BOSTON, May 21, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new advocacy campaign by the state's largest healthcare union is targeting what caregivers say is a major threat to the quality healthcare services that the public has come to depend on from local community and safety net hospitals.

According to local caregivers, extreme inequalities in what Medicaid and Massachusetts insurers are willing to pay hospitals for the same services at the same quality is a problem that has now grown out of control and has reached a tipping point that threatens the availability of convenient, affordable hospital access in several regions of the state.

In a new campaign, caregivers from 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East claim the inequalities and the threat they pose to consumers and community hospitals have become the 'elephant in the room' in the local healthcare industry. Now, caregivers are calling on the state senate to take action as a first step towards addressing the disparities, before it's too late.

"In medicine, every life should be worth the same. That's why it makes no sense that a few wealthy, high-cost Boston hospitals are charging up to 500% more for the same services that more affordable local providers deliver with the same quality."

That's part of what caregivers are saying this week through advertisements in eight daily Massachusetts newspapers and a social media campaign geared towards residents in the cities and towns where they say community hospitals are being shortchanged.

The existing payment inequalities that favor a few high-cost wealthy Boston hospitals – and the underpayments by private insurers and Medicaid to community hospitals – are a topic that has come under recent scrutiny in reports by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and local media outlets.

The campaign by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East calling on the state senate to amend hospital funding policies represents the first time an advocacy group with major resources has attempted to tackle the issue and publicly called for change.

"What caregivers are proposing through the state senate budget debate would be a good short-term fix to start addressing some of these extreme disparities as they relate to public Medicaid funding," said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Veronica Turner. "There is still of course much more to be said and done about the disparities in payments by private insurers that are threatening the availability of convenient, affordable, quality care for the majority of Massachusetts consumers. The healthcare workers of 1199SEIU are going to ensure that conversation happens soon in a very public way as part of our mission to stand up for our patients and protect quality care in the Bay State. This week's campaign is an important first step towards shedding some light on these severe inequalities that have persisted for far too long without adequate public debate."

Under a budget amendment (#598) proposed by 1199SEIU and supported by a growing number of state senators, hospitals that see a higher percentage of Medicaid and Medicare patients would be slated to receive a larger portion of new Medicaid funds. A vote on the amendment is expected this week as the senate concludes its budget deliberations.

Representing nearly 50,000 healthcare workers throughout Massachusetts, and 370,000 workers in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Florida, and Washington, D.C., 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. Our mission is to achieve affordable, high quality healthcare for all. 1199SEIU is part of the 2.1 million member Service Employees International Union. 

Contact: Jeff Hall, 617-281-8384, Twitter: @1199mass
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East

SOURCE 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East