Coming To Mass. Ballots? Nurse Staffing And Hospital ‘Claw Back’

This just in from the Massachusetts Nurses Association:

Two measures that the nurses’ union supports look like they’ve gathered enough signatures to move forward toward appearing on state ballots next year. One, titled The Patient Safety Act, would set a limit on how many patients a registered nurse can be assigned. That’s been a hotly debated issue for years, including in this discussion on Radio Boston this summer.

The other is titled The Hospital Transparency and Fairness Act. The Mass. Nurses Association says it “will require hospitals to be transparent about their financial holdings and other activities, to limit CEO salaries and to limit and claw back excess profits to ensure that taxpayer dollars are dedicated exclusively to safe patient care and necessary services for all communities in the Commonwealth.”

If anyone’s been loudly debating issues of limiting hospital CEO salaries and operating margins, I’ve missed it. (Possibly because executive salaries and profit margins at Boston hospitals tend to look downright socialist compared to their counterparts in some other parts of the country.) But if this measure will raise issues of whether our state’s vaunted hospitals should be more publicly accountable for what they do with their money — which, in the case of Partners HealthCare, the largest network, means $9 billion a year in operating revenues – this could be a very interesting debate.

The nurses’ association says the measures have both gathered more than 100,000 signatures. Secretary of State William Galvin tells us on his website that for the 2014 election, “the initiative petition must be signed by a minimum of 68,911 certified voters. No more than one-quarter of the certified signatures may come from any one county.”

So debaters, start your engines. Any points you’d particularly like to see brought up?

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  • FollowTheMoney

    There is a deeper institutional funding issue here beyond exec pay. I would love to see a story following the funding trail within research universities in this area.
    NIH/NSF grants are funded by taxpayer dollars.
    Research Universities negotiate a fixed overhead rate with the government (I think around 40 percent for Harvard and MIT) for all incoming public grants (and sometimes private ones too).
    Patents & licenses are the IP of the university and used to negotiate equity in new ventures often with high upsides.
    These Ventures are part of the portfolio that fund huge institutional endowments.
    AND these same Research Universities are tax exempt as “not for profit”.
    Researchers and faculty complaint about being underpaid. Students are saddled with debt. Endowments continue to grow….
    Well meaning advocates ask for more research dollars and student aid from taxpayers.
    Something is broken….

  • Norman

    Of course hospitals should be more accountable for what they do with the money the receive and spend. Supposedly “non-profit” charitable hospitals save a huge amount of money because they don’t pay taxes, but tend only to spend only 1%-5% of their revenue on charitable care, all while building facilities that would rival those at the Ritz-Carlton, wasting money on expensive but unproven technology, and paying their CEOs huge sums according to an incentive structure designed to expand volume and revenue rather than further the ostensibly charitable mission of the hospital. I’m all in favor of increased transparency, and down the line, more public control over hospital budgets and prices.