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MA Nurses Union Pushes for Pay Curbs, Financial Disclosures at Hospitals

Ron Shinkman, 6/13/14

An activist nurses union is pushing for legislation in Massachusetts that would create greater transparency regarding hospital prices, executive compensation and investment of assets.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), affiliated with the National Nurses United, supports legislation, HB 3844, that would require disclosure of hospital profit margins, executive pay, and how organizations invest assets overseas. The union is also pushing for a voter ballot initiative as a backup to the legislative route.

"Hospitals that serve predominantly poor patients are struggling to survive and recently one of them, North Adams Regional Hospital, closed while large hospital corporations are generating enormous profits, paying their CEOs millions and stashing millions more in Cayman Island accounts," said Donna Kelly-Williams, the MNA's president, in an announcement. "This initiative will help ensure that taxpayer dollars are used to improve patient care and patient's access to needed services."

The union also conducted a poll of 100 physicians statewide, 58 percent of whom said they have seen hospital executives cut patient services to improve profit margins, and 70 percent of whom support greater transparency, the Boston Business Journal reported.

The movement seems to have come at a fortuitous time in Massachusetts. In California, voters passed an initiative to curb C-suite compensation at the district-operated El Camino Hospital in 2012, FierceHealthcare previously reported. One of the Bay State's most visible providers, Partners Healthcare, cut a deal with state regulators to curb its prices in order to acquire South Shore Hospital and two facilities operated by Hallmark Health. The deal was loudly criticized by Alan Sager, a Boston University health economics professor, who said it would merely slow down price increases.

Although labor unions have sponsored ballot initiatives intended to curb hospital prices and executive compensation, not all have shown resolve to take them to the finish line. The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers recently dropped such measures to cut a deal with the California Hospital Association in an attempt to boost Medicaid payments.

To learn more:
- read the MNA announcement
- here's the Boston Business Journal article

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