Solano County

State health care union attack ad targets NorthBay

By From page A3 | March 19, 2014

FAIRFIELD — The health care workers union took direct aim this week at NorthBay Healthcare in one of a series of ads contending it and several other hospitals are grossly overcharging for medical products and paying their CEOs an exorbitant salary.

The ads, which will air in Solano County and other cable TV markets, are part of the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West’s efforts to get two measures on the state ballot, the Fair Healthcare Pricing Act of 2014 and the Charitable Hospital Executive Compensation Act of 2014.

In NorthBay’s case, the union uses figures it took from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development to contend that NorthBay charges 534 percent above its actual costs while paying its CEO $593,000 a year. It specifically states that the hospital charges $27 for an aspirin and $100 for hydrocortisone ointment.

The Fair Healthcare Pricing Act, if passed, would prohibit hospitals from charging more than 25 percent above the actual cost of providing patient care while the Hospital Executive Compensation Act would prohibit nonprofit hospital executives from making more than $450,000 a year in compensation.

NorthBay representatives immediately fired back, contending the ads are “dishonest and deceptive” and saying that the state source the union pulled its figures from was an antiquated system of list prices.

“No one pays $27 for an aspirin or $100 for ointment,” NorthBay Vice President of Public Affairs Steve Huddleston said Tuesday. “Figures they purport to be real are nothing but numbers on a master billing database that has no relation to reality.”

Dave Regan, SEIU-UHW’s president, said in the release targeting NorthBay that he felt that once Solano County residents saw the ads they will “agree that nonprofit hospitals shouldn’t be allowed to pay their CEOs more than half a million dollars and charge ridiculous prices for the most basic services.”

With the exception of changing the name of the hospital and the county, it was the same comment Regan gave in releases sent to media outlets in Ventura County and Alameda County where the union targeted ValleyCare Medical Center in Pleasanton and Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura.

The union contends that these hospitals also similarly overcharge for medical care and overpay their CEOs.

Regan said the hospitals lost sight of their responsibility to the community and “we plan to put them back on track by passing these ballot measures.”

Huddleston said the measures are flawed and spurious. He said the measures would not improve health care, but “impose arbitrary price caps on targeted hospitals, but exempt many other hospitals which could set their charges without any limits.”

Passing the measures would cost NorthBay an estimated $35 million, which equals the payroll for 300 of its 2,000 employees.

The prices cited from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development are numbers that each hospital calls its charge master, Huddleston said. The real prices patients are charged is determined by what an insurance company negotiates with a particular hospital, what the government decides to pay for people on Medicare and Medicaid, or what a patient can afford to pay, Huddleston said.

“We can tell them up front what a hospital stay would cost, given his or her health insurance benefits,” Huddleston said.

NorthBay’s prices are above average, but that is because “we serve the community at large,” with NorthBay charging insurance plans more to make up for losses the hospital incurs treating those who can’t pay, he said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson has worked for the Daily Republic longer than he cares to remember. A native of Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon, he pines for the motherland still. He covers Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base for the Daily Republic. He is an avid military history buff, wargamer and loves the great outdoors.

Discussion | 8 comments

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  • JimboMarch 18, 2014 - 10:45 pm

    Something is going on with those hospitals and their pricing. An ER visit that originally cost under 500 dollars now cost over 3500 for the exact same thing at the exact same place. Who would think getting 2 bags of saline IV fluid would be such a price difference?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • B. ThiemerMarch 19, 2014 - 6:14 am

    Dave Regan, SEIU-UHW’s president makes over $300,000 a year. I propose the "Labor Union Executive Compensation Act of 2014."

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • larryMarch 19, 2014 - 11:02 am

    I am dealing with this right now at NB! They charged $600 for the pulse ox and $600 for the chamber that is used to administer inhalers to a small child. They charged $300 for albuterol. I could get the chamber and albuterol for under $30 combined at a drug store.

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  • Daniel FullerMarch 19, 2014 - 4:27 pm

    Larry, I can top that. trip Advised by county clinic to go to ER on 1/31/14 for dog bite to forearm. Was treated in hallway and only received a tetanus shot, and on my way. Bill is $3,986.60. prescription for antibiotics 50.00 at CVS. Separate Bill from MD $488.00. Ive asked Northbay FF for itemized bill to understand their reasoning , still waiting. Im applying for assistance from county as we speak, no way I can come up with that,

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  • Blaming the wrong party.March 19, 2014 - 9:16 pm

    The prices would be lower if the hospital was not trying to recoup the losses of taking care of all the homeless and poor that can not pay their bills. People who call an ambulance every day for a "free" ride to the ER and then complain of "chest pain" and then sit and take up space and receive treatment that they really don't need. But they get food and blankets and then get turned back out, only to call again for the services that everyone knows they'll never pay for. The upper management salary is excessive, but if everyone paid their share then it would not be an issue. The union is only attacking this hospital because they are non union and pay and negotiate with their employees directly. If the unions don't get a cut, they'll come after the hospital. What a shame.

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  • EMSgirl64March 19, 2014 - 10:55 pm

    Blaming the Wrong Party: You Nailed it!!

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  • Lynne ReeseMarch 21, 2014 - 11:36 am

    Northbay overcharges for everything. They treat everyone like drug addicts and yet charge $3500 for an ER visit-my cost! My dad had a stroke, they sent him home saying he was dehydrated. My mom had a serious bacterial infection, they kept her only one night and she could hear the nurses arguing about who had to go in to treat her. They are an awful hospital and organization. We are switching to Sutter.

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  • HKMarch 26, 2014 - 2:35 am

    If it's an emergency that can stand the wait, I recommend Queen of the Valley in Napa. Avoid Northbay unless you life absolutely depends on it (and even then, the vets at an emergency pet clinic would be more competent) and you don't mind bankruptcy.

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