Lawmakers introduce bill that would make unionization easier

From Modern Healthcare:

With union activity in healthcare already on the rise, Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced the Employee Free Choice Act with the stated intention of increasing union membership by allowing new bargaining units to form without having to hold secret elections.

Federal law already allows unions to form through the “card-check” process, in which pro-union workers can form a new bargaining unit if more than 50% of similarly situated workers sign cards affirming their support. But current law also allows employers to veto the “card-check” process and force the National Labor Relations Board to hold secret balloting. The Employee Free Choice Act would eliminate an employer’s right to veto a card-check process and then force employers into binding arbitration if they fail to reach agreement on an initial contract after 120 days.

Organizations with large healthcare bargaining units such as the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO are staunch supporters of the legislation, while employer groups like the American Hospital Association say it could negatively affect patient care by giving power to federal labor arbitrators who may not grasp the complex world of healthcare delivery.

Wal-Mart to Sell Electronic Medical Records to Doctors

From the Wall Street Journal Health Blog:

Wal-Mart is jumping into the health-IT fray with plans to sell systems for handling electronic health-care records in small medical practices, the New York Times reports.

Convincing small practices to invest in the costly technology has been one of the biggest conundrums in the push to digitize the nation’s medical records. One doc told the WSJ’s Andy Jordan it cost about $300,000 to make the switch. Wal-Mart thinks it can solve the problem by doing what is has done with so many other products.

“We’re a high-volume, low-cost company,” Marcus Osborne, who works in health-care business development for the company, told NYT. “And I would argue that mentality is sorely lacking in the health-care industry.”

The retailer’s Sam’s Club division, working with Dell for the computers and eClinicalWorks for software, plans this spring to make electronic medical records available for under $25,000 for the first physician in a practice and some $10,000 for each additional doctor, NYT says. Continuing maintenance and support will run another $4,000 to $6,500 a year.