Prime Healthcare Services has been slapped with a $1.6 million judgment by the National Labor Relations Board for unilaterally reducing health benefits for unionized employees at its Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood, Calif.
The judgement includes the cost of reimbursing employees for out-of-pocket expenses they incurred over five years because of the benefit changes as well as interest. The NLRB also ordered Prime Healthcare to restore the benefits that the employees had prior to Jan. 1, 2011.
The SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West brought the NLRB action on behalf of about 630 of its members at Centinela who work as certified nursing assistants, licensed vocational nurses, respiratory therapists, radiology technicians, admitting clerks and administrative staff.
A three-member NLRB panel ruled Nov. 24 that Prime Healthcare changed the benefits without properly bargaining collectively with the union to alter them. The panel largely affirmed a 2013 ruling by an administrative law judge.
The union filed the complaint against Ontario, Calif.-based Prime Healthcare after the company replaced an Anthem-administered PPO and HMO plan at the start of 2011 with an exclusive provider plan that featured a Prime Healthcare network of providers. The switch followed several bargaining sessions that failed to yield an agreement on the changes, according to NLRB documents.
The union complained that the changes increased premiums, copayments and other costs. The union also requested quality information from Prime Healthcare for its network. The system failed to provide the information, the documents show.
Prime Healthcare spokeswoman Elizabeth Nikels said the company disagrees with the NLRB decision and planned to appeal it. She declined to comment further.
Prime Healthcare operates 18 hospitals in 11 states.