WATSONVILLE, Calif. - Watsonville Community Hospital Employees and community members are proposing a ballot initiative that would put a limit on how much hospitals can charge for services.
This comes after some employees say Watsonville Community Hospital is overcharging for procedures.
Christopher Gil, a surgery scrub tech, says the prices are much higher than what is charged at Dominican, "$45,000 is what they charge to deliver a baby, a healthy everyday baby at Watsonville Community Hospital and at Dominican it's $25,000."
Gil started the initiative a few months ago saying it is not fair or right to overcharge people in there most vulnerable times. "No community should be price gauged during the times in their lives where they're most emotional. Where those life changing events happen, where people go and die, where people get sick, where they get diagnosed with cancer. They shouldn't be having to worry about whether paying rent or paying a medical bill," says Gil.
Volunteers gathered on Saturday to begin collecting signatures. They need roughly 1,800 registered voters signatures, who live in Watsonville, for the initiative to make the 2018 Ballot. If it passes, starting January 2019, it would limit the Watsonville Community Hospital and other health services in the City to charging no more than 15% more of the cost of care.
Gil is not alone when he says there needs to be a change. Other city officials, like Mayor Oscar Rios is backing the initiative. "There has been gauging going on in this hospital and we want to put a stop to it," says Rios.
They have until April to get the signatures.
KION did reach out to Watsonville Community Hospital, they have issused the following statement:
"We continue to believe the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers’ proposed ballot initiative is a waste of taxpayer dollars and a distraction from the true catalyst: the union’s opposition to our request that our SEIU-represented personnel to begin contributing to their health insurance at the same rate of participation as that of all other hospital employees
As a safety net hospital, 50 percent of the patients at our facility are covered by Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program that helps many of our community’s most vulnerable citizens access much-needed medical care. That percentage is among the highest in the region. We continue to provide high-quality care to more of the most underserved and indigent members of our community.
We take exception with the inaccurate cost data the union continues to share. As you’ve noted in your reporting already, the cost for a routine vaginal birth can range from $27,000 and $45,000, according to the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. The range listed on the California Healthcare Compare website, a service of the California Department of Insurance, lists the range for vaginal birth between $10,354 and $33,091 for both our hospital and Dominican Hospital. At the same time, reimbursement for our services continues to decline and is often below the actual cost of providing care.
We are disappointed in the union’s approach and their attempt to use this ballot measure as a bullying tactic to impact the outcome of contract negotiations. We regret any distraction this may cause to our patients, employees and community members.
Our hospital has been a trusted healthcare resource for 122 years, providing safe, high-quality care when our community members need it most."