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April 10, 2013 / Paul Levy

$75 million? Thanks, but I’d rather not donate.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008, 10:23am

A recent article about an election-year campaign by the SEIU prompted me to go through my notes from a meeting almost two years ago. The scene was at Boston’s Parker House Hotel, on May 23, 2006, where Senator Kennedy had invited all of the Boston area hospital CEOs to meet with Dennis Rivera and several other members of the SEIU leadership. I haven’t written about this before because I wasn’t sure of whether the contents of the meeting were supposed to be public, but now that the SEIU has said the same things publicly, I am comfortable reporting them.

At the meeting, Mr. Rivera said that the SEIU needed $100 million to educate the American public and run a national campaign on the patient access and universal coverage issue. He explained that the union did not have that large sum of money and therefore needed it from the hospitals. He also said quite clearly that there would be an effort to elect Democratic candidates and defeat Republican candidates.

The announcement this week reiterates and confirms his remarks. The dollar amount is $75 million instead of $100 million, but perhaps it was just a rounding error two years ago — or maybe they have already spent a portion of the difference between the two numbers. And sure enough, during the Presidential campaign and in other local and gubernatorial races, the SEIU has likewise supported Democratic candidates who agree with its point of view.

All this is legal and above-board, so I am not raising that issue. Indeed, you and I may personally agree with some or all of these political aims. However, at a time when Massachusetts — with the closest thing to a universal access law — is trying to control the growth of health care expenses, I am hard-pressed to see why hospitals, insurers, and consumers in Massachusetts should support a union effort to add an additional tax on our health care system and its workers to provide dollars to support a national political agenda and support for particular candidates. I am not as familiar with other states, and I wonder if the same concerns might arise there.

Of course, if you happened to disagree with the SEIU’s political goals, you might have an additional reason to be concerned about this use of funds from the health care delivery system. But, even if you agree completely with the union’s objectives, do you support this means of raising revenue?

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