A November ballot initiative that jeopardizes health care in our communities

(left to right) Dennis Lund, interim CEO of Stanford Children's Health; David Entwistle, president and CEO of Stanford Health Care: and Lloyd Minor, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine.
Steve Fisch

In the Nov. 6 election, Palo Alto and Livermore residents will be asked to vote on an extremely misleading ballot initiative — called Measure F in Palo Alto, and Measure U in Livermore — that purports to control health care costs in our communities. In reality, it would have the opposite effect.

While we at Stanford Health Care are always focused on reducing the costs of the high-quality care we provide, the ballot initiative will not help us accomplish this goal.

We strongly oppose this misguided initiative and hope you will join us in voting no on Measure F in Palo Alto and Measure U in Livermore, and in educating friends and family who are Palo Alto and Livermore residents.

To be clear, the initiative does nothing to address health care costs or limit prices charged to patients who have insurance coverage. Nothing in the initiative improves health care quality or patient safety — or makes care more accessible to low-income and vulnerable groups. Instead, it poses far-reaching, negative consequences for a broad range of health care providers, the Palo Alto and Livermore city governments and, ultimately, the patients and people we care about and serve.

In fact, passing the initiative in Palo Alto alone would require Stanford Health Care to cut its budget up to 25 percent, making it difficult — if not impossible — to continue our current offering of patient care services and programs. This type of drastic restructuring would force us to reconsider how to use the new hospital building that is slated to open next year. It would also threaten our world-class status as an academic medical center that supports research and education.

For SHC patients and their families, this means they would only have access to a small subset of specialty services in the community. For SHC employees, these radical changes and eliminated services would force SHC to consider reductions in staff, salaries and benefits.

The initiative’s true objective — developed and promoted by Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West — is to pressure SHC into allowing the union direct access to our non-unionized employees so that the union can expand its membership. This misguided attempt to strong-arm SHC also poses far-reaching, negative consequences for a broad range of health care providers, the Palo Alto and Livermore city governments and, ultimately, the patients and families who have entrusted us with their care.

Other local providers affected by this initiative — including the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Palo Alto as well as SHC ValleyCare, Kaiser and John Muir Health in Livermore — would also be forced to reduce services and access to services that meet the needs of our diverse communities. This is because the initiative would require local hospitals, medical clinics and doctors to pay rebates to large, for-profit, mostly out-of-state insurance companies without any requirement that these rebates be passed on to patients. Unfortunately, while the insurance companies benefit, everyone else loses: patients, employees, local government and local health care providers.

What’s more, the initiative’s negative impact wouldn’t be limited to large providers; the initiative would also apply to dentists, optometrists and other small specialty practices in the city.

Additionally, the SEIU-UHW initiative would also affect the ability of the governments of Palo Alto and Livermore to provide other, critical public services. If this initiative passes, these cities would be mandated to enforce this new and complex health care regulation, which will require a significant investment of staff time and taxpayer dollars. City government does its job well, but there are legitimate concerns about the burden this new mandate would impose on city operations.

Hospitals are already highly regulated by state and federal governments. Forcing the cities of Palo Alto and Livermore to add another layer of bureaucracy to the regulatory landscape flies in the face of ongoing efforts to increase efficiency and address health care costs.

The ballot initiative proposed by SEIU-UHW is inherently against the best interests of the residents of Palo Alto and Livermore, and its far-reaching consequences should not be underestimated. Join us in voting no on Measure F in Palo Alto and Measure U in Livermore, and encourage your friends and family who are Palo Alto or Livermore residents to vote no in November.

More information about the negative impact of these propositions on our communities is available at www.protectpaloalto.org and www.protectlivermore.org.