The MNA's response to news reports about the total spending on the Question 1 ballot measure for safe patient limits is directly below. Media coverage follows.
“Hospital executives spent nearly $25 million of largely public money to oppose a patient safety measure put forward and funded by front-line nurses. The opposition to Question 1 and safe patient limits – funded predominantly by non-profit health care revenue – shattered the spending record for a single Massachusetts ballot committee. Using taxpayer-subsidized campaign funds and its position as the ‘no’ campaign, the hospital opposition confused voters through fear and misinformation. Both the amount spent by hospitals to oppose safe patient limits and the way hospital executives used resources was unprecedented.
"The vast majority of the hospitals who funded the opposition are non-profits. Under the current law, non-profit hospitals are allowed to use their revenue to fund a ballot campaign. It is illegal for them to contribute to an individual election campaign. The hospital opposition’s revenues, derived from public funding, created a war chest that dominated the media landscape. For every one Yes on Question 1 ad on television, the radio or online, the hospital industry ran at least four opposition ads. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities throughout the state were plastered with signs and pamphlets, including political ads on patient portals and campaign literature attached to patient discharge information.
"And yet the reported spending does not tell the whole story. The Question 1 opposition, being primarily hospitals, were able to freely tap into their patient data to send out political mailings. The Yes on Question 1 campaign heard from many patients appalled to learn that their patient information was utilized to target them with letters threatening that essential services relevant to their care needs would close if Question 1 passed.
“While the hospital opponents to safe patient limits had essentially limitless revenues, the supporters of Question 1, predominantly staff nurses at the bedside, used their own money to fight for safe patient care. Front-line nurses and health care professionals who are part of the Massachusetts Nurses Association voted to move forward and fund the Yes on Question 1 campaign. The funding from MNA came directly from front-line health care professionals. The amount they spent out of their own pockets to advocate for safe patient limits shows how important this issue is to the very people who provide patient care at the bedside every day. Unlike the hospital opposition, the yes for safe patient limits campaign also received hundreds of donations from other individuals.
“Throughout the campaign, executives said hospitals and services could face closure if Question 1 passed. They threatened this to patients in waiting rooms, put it on television and sent millions of pieces of mail. On November 7, we saw how disingenuous these threats were. Immediately after Question 1 did not pass, Lawrence Memorial Hospital announced it was closing its emergency department. Within the next few months, Baystate Health – a highly profitable system and a chief opponent of Question 1 – announced plans to close inpatient mental health services in Greenfield, Westfield and Palmer. Harrington Hospital announced it is closing its inpatient pediatric unit. Meanwhile, Massachusetts General Hospital recently announced a $1 billion dollar hospital expansion – one of the largest ever in Massachusetts. The record-breaking amount spent by the hospital executives in opposition to Question 1 and safe patient limits unfortunately aligns with the hospital industry’s increasing focus on prioritizing profits before safe patient care.”
Hospitals spend record $25M to defeat nurse patient ratio ballot question
Massachusetts Nurses Association lost the ballot initiative to the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association, spending only half as much on a ballot to enact nurse to patient limits.
By Jessica Bartlett – Reporter, Boston Business Journal
Feb 25, 2019, 2:48pm EST Updated 12 hours ago
Hospitals spent more to defeat last year's ballot question on nurse staffing ratios than has ever been spent on a ballot question in state history, according to data released Monday by the Office of Campaign Finance.
The Coalition to Protect Patient Safety, a lobbying group supported almost entirely by hospitals, spent $24,733,966 on the ballot initiative in November against Question 1, which would have put strict caps on the number of patients each nurse could have. The Coalition received 99 percent of its funding from the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association, a lobbying group representing 70 hospitals in the state.
That contribution breaks the previous record for the highest total ever reported by a single ballot question committee. The previous record was set in 2016 by Great Schools Massachusetts, which spent $21.6 million to try to expand charter schools.
That amount spent by the Coalition was more than double the $12,044,919 spent by the Committee to Ensure Safe Patient Care, a group backed almost entirely by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which proposed the ballot.
Asked to comment on its record-setting spending on Question 1, the Mass. Health & Hospital Association said it "invested the resources necessary to educate voters and defeat Question 1."
"This misguided ballot proposal … threatened patient access to services and would have increased healthcare spending exponentially, without any benefit to the quality of patient care," an MHA spokeswoman said in an email. "While it is clear that the public ultimately came to understand the consequences posed by the ballot question, we don’t characterize the final outcome as a ‘victory’ but rather an ‘opportunity.’ What the hospital community won was the ability to continue providing the best possible care for patients across Massachusetts.”
Meanwhile, Joe Markman, a spokesman for the Mass. Nurses Association, said the money they spent on the campaign came from the pockets of front-line health workers, as opposed to a "war chest" funded by "limitless" taxpayer-subsidized campaign funds opposing the ballot question.
"And yet the reported spending does not tell the whole story," Markman said. "The Question 1 opposition, being primarily hospitals, were able to freely tap into their patient data to send out political mailings. The Yes on Question 1 campaign heard from many patients appalled to learn that their patient information was utilized to target them with letters threatening that essential services relevant to their care needs would close if Question 1 passed."
Markman said that in the weeks following the ballot question's defeat, hospitals closed several services they had threatened were in danger if the measure passed. Lawrence Memorial announced it would close its emergency department, and Baystate Health announced plans to close inpatient mental health services in Greenfield, Westfield and Palmer. Harrington Hospital also announced it would close its inpatient pediatric unit.
In total, spending on Question 1 totaled $36.8 million — accounting for 86 percent of all statewide ballot spending in 2018.
The ballot question around nurse-staffing failed, with 1,858,483 votes against compared with 787,511 votes in favor. On average, $15.29 was spent per every vote in opposition, and $13.31 was spent for every vote in favor.
Though spending on Question 1 was unmatched in that election or any that preceded it, total ballot spending in 2018 wasn’t the highest ever recorded in the state. The $42.6 million spent on all three ballots was less than the $57.5 million spent on four ballot questions in 2016, according to state records.
Group opposing Massachusetts nurse staffing question broke record for ballot committee spending
Updated Feb 25, 4:16 PM; Posted Feb 25, 4:16 PM
Nurses and business leaders rallied at Springfield Symphony Hall in November against Ballot Question 1, which would have mandated nurse staffing levels across Massachusetts. (Submitted photo)