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HOSPITALS: The SEIU & Paul Levy lovefest continues

The SEIU has been trying to organize Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who’s CEO Paul Levy’s most famous accomplishment is writing a blog called Running a Hospital. (What could be more worthy than that? Yes, we feature Paul’s posts on THCB fairly often because we think he’s really good).

In his writing about the SEIU Paul has been, as Eric Idle (or was it Graham Chapman) used to say, cruel but fair. He nominally is neutral on what his employees decide to do about unionization but it doesn’t take much reading between the lines to show what he really thinks about the SEIU and its campaign.

And now, while Paul is off luxuriating on the sunny climes of an English February, the SEIU is striking back—pointing out that BIDMC includes bad debt in its charity accounting and is therefore overstating the amount of charity care it gives out. This isn’t exactly a rarity amongst hospitals, but it’s not that often that the SEIU gets it reported in that collectivist organ known as The New York Times.

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7 replies »

  1. I wouldn’t characterize Levy as being cruel, but fair. I would say that it is clueless. He protests that he is just calling it like he sees it at the same time he engages in cheap shots. He has been a hypocrite more than once. I lost a great deal of respect for him on this issue. He accused me of being a union shill just based on my disagreement with him.

  2. Peter;
    I guess I am rhetorically asking, why does it have to be that “strikes, organizing and contract negotiations in high profile cases include attempts by both sides to discredit the other on all issues….” I have had a belly full of partisan politics. I suspect the results of our presidential election may show that others have, too. Also, in other negotiations I have seen between unions and companies, they at least wait until negotiations have begun to start accusing the other of bad faith. The SEIU started in on BIDMC months and months ago, in a fashion completely predicted ahead of time by Paul Levy in several posts. I recommend reading them, if just for interest.

  3. bev, from your posts you’re one of the good guys, but thought maybe there was a little union bashing going on. After all one man’s union is another man’s Association or Guild. Unions try to accomplish in public what corporations do in back rooms and on golf courses.
    Strikes, organizing, and contact negotiations in high profile cases include attempts by both sides to discredit the other on all issues, even non-direct ones. I guess it’s fair in this case if the hospital trys to paint itself as a good community citizen by using bogus accounting methods, maybe even IRS non-approved ones. I didn’t read Paul Levy’s “between the lines” comments, or his “cruel but fair” writings, so I can’t say how his side is behaving.

  4. It is not unusual for hospitals to account for bad debt as charity care – in fact, Medicare was instrumental in creating the practice, reimbursing hospitals for MC bad debt. I am glad to explain the history if there is interest. The practice has been under fire for years – not supportedd by many including the Catholic Hospital Association. By definition, bad debt is a receivable written off because its not worth the cost or effort to get the money. The effort includes differentiating between “dead beats” and charity cases. Additionally, bad debt like most charity care on hospital books is counted at charges (retail price) as if anyone ever pays that amount.
    And as far as union organizing tactics – this is softball even with the NYT coverge.

  5. Peter;
    You’ll get no objection from me about AMA-bashing. I do not belong and feel much the same as you do. How that relates to this story, though, is unclear?

  6. Wow, can I deduct bad debts from my loan portfolio as, “charitable contributions” to enhance MY public image? That will surely get me that man-of-the-year award.
    “I thought unions were about fairness to workers, good working conditions, etc.”
    I thought the AMA guild was about protecting patients, etc. Oh well, there’s no serving like self-serving.

  7. I thought unions were about fairness to workers, good working conditions, etc. Would someone explain how they have jurisdiction to comment on other matters such as displayed here? I think one can assume their motives are far from lily white.
    I think Paul is playing a dangerous, but courageous game outing their methods. His compadres in Boston seem content to let him be the fall guy. We shall see where the chips fall for all of them.

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