The campaign Healthcare Rising AZ reported filing 425,000 signatures for a ballot initiative to establish a minimum wage for hospital workers and enact several changes to healthcare insurance regulations. At least 237,645 (about 55.9 percent) of the submitted signatures need to be valid for the initiative to go before voters on November 3, 2020.
The ballot initiative would establish a minimum wage for direct care hospital workers, including nurses, aides, technicians, janitorial and housekeeping staff, food service workers, and non-managerial administrative staff. The minimum wage for hospital workers would increase 5 percent from the previous year over the course of four years, leveling out at $14.59 per hour.
The ballot initiative would enact several changes to healthcare insurance regulations, including prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions under state law, providing the factors that insurance companies must use to determine premium rates, and prohibiting what the initiative calls surprise out-of-network bills, among other changes. The ballot initiative would also require private hospitals to meet national standards regarding hospital-acquired infections and empower the Arizona Department of Health Services to fine hospitals that do not meet those standards.
Healthcare Rising AZ has the support of the SEIU-UHW West, a labor union for healthcare workers that is based in California. Through March 31, the SEIU-UHW West and affiliated political committees have provided the campaign with $3.22 million. Sean Wherley, a spokesperson for the SEIU-UHW West, said, “SEIU-UHW’s goals are to help people in Arizona build Healthcare Rising Arizona to advocate for better and more affordable healthcare in the state and pass the ballot initiative.” Healthcare Rising AZ chairperson Jenny David, who is a registered nurse, said the campaign reached out to SEIU-UHW West about supporting the ballot initiative. David described the ballot initiative saying, “This package of improvements will fix a number of major problems in our state’s health care system to ensure that everyone can get the affordable coverage and safe care they need. These are sensible, important changes that we need to protect ourselves and ensure quality care.”
Opponents include the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. Ann-Marie Alameddin, the association’s CEO, stated, “This California-based union [SEIU-UHW West], famous for picketing hospitals, is asking Arizonans to vote for an initiative that won’t improve their health care and will end up costing them more. Moreover, it has a track record of using ballot initiatives not to improve health care in Arizona but to leverage its bargaining position with California hospitals.”
In 2020, the SEIU-UHW West is also supporting California Proposition 23, which would implement requirements for staffing, data reporting, and closures at dialysis clinics.
The process of verifying signatures could take until August 26, 2020. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) has until July 31 to remove ineligible petition sheets. Counties then have until August 21, 2020, to conduct random samples. Hobbs will then have until August 26 to aggregate the random samples and announce whether the initiative will appear on the ballot.