Sidewalk seduction

These ballot measures sound good, but what’s the catch?

Twice last week, before the rains came, I was approached on the sidewalk downtown by two young women with lovely smiles. They were holding initiative petitions and asking whether I wanted to reduce the cost of health care.

Well, who doesn’t? Rising medical costs are killing us, you could say. Besides, I like talking with pretty young women. So I stopped.

But when I read the initiative summaries, I chose not to sign. I could see that both would have unintended consequences. And it’s hard to undo a bad initiative (you have to pass another one).

Later, I did some research. Both measures are sponsored by the Service Employees International Union. One would prohibit hospitals from charging fees that are more than 25 percent above the actual costs of services. The other would require nonprofit hospitals to spend at least 5 percent of patient revenue for low-income patients.

Sounds good, right? But there’s a catch. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office and the state Department of Finance, the initiatives could cause hospitals to eliminate services, raise rates or reduce staffs.

Also, as the Los Angeles Times has reported, the initiatives would have a major effect on facilities where the SEIU has been unable to organize and exempt those where many SEIU members work—namely, the two largest systems, Kaiser and Dignity Health (the former Catholic Healthcare West).

“It’s like a marijuana regulation initiative that leaves out Humboldt County,” Jaime Court, president of the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, told the Times.

My advice to the SEIU: If you want to fix the health-care system, work to institute a “Medicare for all” single-payer insurance system. That’s the way to go.

News from the home front: As regular readers know, the CN&R editorial staff has been in flux recently. Now comes the biggest change of all: Managing Editor Meredith J. Graham is leaving us after this week. She and her husband, Josh, are moving to southern France, where he’ll be attending pastry school for eight months.

That’s great for them but a big loss for us. Meredith is a prolific writer (more than 540 stories in her six years here), as well as an eagle-eyed copy editor and a terrific organizer, interns manager, photo editor, copy-flow boss and … well, you name it, she does it. She certainly has made my job a lot easier. And she was a delight to work with the whole time. Bon voyage, mes amis!

Fortunately, former News Editor Melissa Daugherty is returning from maternity leave next week, just in time to take over Meredith’s job. And veteran ace reporter Tom Gascoyne, who replaced Melissa on an interim basis, is now the permanent news editor.

Also, Calendar Editor Howard Hardee has done such a good job that we’ve added special projects editor to his list of titles. And, of course, Jason Cassidy continues to be the peerless arts editor he’s been for years.

The last six months have been wild, but things are settling down. This staff is primed to do good work. Let us know what you think of the results.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.