After the Arizona Free Enterprise Club successfully advocated for initiative reform to crack down on circulator fraud and abuse, groups have been manically organizing to file their ballot initiatives before the new law took effect August 27th 2019.
Just eking in on August 26th was an initiative funded by California big-union Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers (SEIU-UHW). SEIU is best known in Arizona for picketing at hospitals as well as their failed attempt to qualify a ballot initiative in 2016 to cap hospital executives’ pay. The political group formed to push the effort is “Healthcare Rising Arizona” which is perhaps fitting considering the inevitable rising costs the passage of this initiative would cause.
The unions plan to sell the measure to voters by codifying in Arizona statute provisions of Obamacare that prohibit discrimination based upon pre-existing conditions. Additionally, it would address ‘surprise billing’ by prohibiting hospitals and ambulance services from charging an out-of-network patient above what their in-network cost sharing is, and mandates specified reimbursement rates for insurers to pay facilities, ambulances and providers.
The reality is that protections for pre-existing conditions and ‘surprise billing’ already exist in Arizona. In fact, two years ago Arizona lawmakers passed legislation to create a dispute process for consumers who receive a surprise bill.
So why would a California labor union spend millions to run a campaign in Arizona to pass laws that already exist?
The answer is the immediate 5 percent pay raise for all direct care hospital workers (including nurses, janitorial staff and food prep staff) that would go into effect upon passage. Although the proponents admit these would be substantial costs that would likely be passed onto patients, it is a convenient way to set the stage to put Big Union bosses in charge of wages and benefits negotiations. Furthermore, no data suggests that hospital workers are under paid; especially in Arizona where cost of living is affordable.
Finally, the initiative would increase regulatory burdens on private hospitals and require the Arizona Department of Health Services to levy major fines for falling short. Increased red tape means higher administrative costs getting passed on to the consumer.
If Americans and especially Arizonans have learned anything from Obamacare it is that government intrusion into healthcare complicates the system, increases costs, and decreases choice.
Although there is still plenty of time for proponents to collect signatures for the 2020 ballot, they won’t have to comply with new commonsense requirements to qualify circulators and ensure they’re not felons. It is likely therefore that bad actors and paid union members will flood the streets for the 237,000 required signatures. Hopefully voters will have a healthy sense of skepticism when approached with another big-government solution to their healthcare.