Back in 2004, California’s children’s hospitals asked voters to approve a $750 million bond measure to help fund construction and new medical equipment. In 2008, they asked for $980 million more. Now they’re hoping voters will agree on Nov. 6 to cough up an additional $1.5 billion.
The state’s 13 children’s hospitals treat California’s sickest kids — including those with leukemia, sickle cell disease, rare cancers and cystic fibrosis — so approving their fund-raising requests is an easy “yes” for many voters.
Despite the feel-good nature of the requests, some health care experts and election analysts question the hospitals’ multiple appeals for taxpayer money — and are warning voters to review this year’s proposal with a critical eye.
“I think it’s a misuse of the initiative process for private groups to sponsor ballot measures that are intended to benefit them exclusively,” said Elizabeth Ralston, a former president of the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles who analyzes state finance measures for the group. The league recommends a “no” vote on the measure.
Repeatedly asking taxpayers to pay for the construction of state-of-the-art facilities is not standard practice, according to critics who believe it raises questions about financial accountability — and whether the hospitals truly need some of the projects on their wish lists.
This pattern “could leave children’s hospitals with little incentive to control their costs,” said Ge Bai, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School, who added that each hospital should take care of itself.
The initiative, Proposition 4, needs a majority vote to pass. The 2004 and 2008 children’s hospital bond measures passed with 58.3 percent and 55.3 percent of the vote, respectively.