By Katie Keller
In the midterm elections yesterday, Palo Alto voters decisively struck down Measure F, the local ballot initiative aimed at curbing healthcare spending that Stanford University and Stanford Health Care vehemently opposed. Of the 11,762 counted ballots as of late Tuesday night, 78 percent of voters opposed the measure, while 22 percent supported it.
The measure would have forced local healthcare providers, including Stanford Hospital and various independent doctor’s offices in the city, to cap charges at no more than 15 percent more than the industry-established cost of the services provided. It was largely backed by Service Employees International Union United Health Workers (SEIU-UHW), the labor union that represents over 1800 workers at the Stanford University Medical Center and other healthcare providers across the state.
Though the ballot measure was not directly related to labor issues, SEIU-UHW viewed it as a prime opportunity to influence what they see as excessive costs in the Palo Alto healthcare market. They argued that Stanford Hospital’s yearly profits in excess of $200 million were inconsistent with the organization’s status as a nonprofit hospital.
“This is about transparency [and] letting people understand how much [they] are being charged and why [they] are being charged so much more than the clinic down the street or in the neighboring community,” Wherley told The Daily last month. “This is our chance as an organization to get healthcare costs under control.”
Stanford Health Care argued that their high operating budget was necessary to maintain any cost savings and that the bill provided would only be relevant to insurance companies, without changing healthcare costs for patients.
“I want to emphasize: This initiative actually does nothing to limit the prices charged to patients with insurance coverage,” said President and CEO of SHC David Entwistle in an interview with Stanford News. “Nothing in the initiative improves health care quality or patient safety. And nothing makes care more accessible to low-income and vulnerable groups.”
Palo Alto City Council also voted unanimously to oppose the measure in a June meeting, citing the bureaucratic burden that the measure would have placed on the city government. Palo Alto City Hall would have been in charge of enforcing the measure. The Palo Alto Online issued a vehement editorial opposing the measure in late September.
Many small-scale healthcare practitioners also opposed Measure F, with many saying that the lost revenue as a result of the bill would have been so detrimental that they would have had to move their practice to a different municipality.
“The truth is, this ballot measure will limit my ability to have a viable dental practice because of my ZIP code,” local dentist James Stephens told the City Council earlier this year.
Contact Katie Keller at ktkeller ‘at’ stanford.edu.