800.765.8775

Diabetes Community

Patient Advocacy Or Political Ploy? Union, Industry Square Off Over Dialysis Initiative

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
10/05/18  3:59 PM PST
Dialysis

Patient Advocacy Or Political Ploy? Union, Industry Square Off Over Dialysis Initiative – By David Tuller and Harriet Rowan for California Healthline

This year, California dialysis clinics — and their profits — are in a powerful union’s crosshairs.

On Nov. 6, the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West union hopes to deliver a stinging blow with a ballot measure designed to limit clinic profits.

Proposition 8, or the “Fair Pricing for Dialysis Act,” would cap dialysis clinic profits at 115 percent of the costs of patient care, with revenue above that amount to be rebated primarily to insurers. Medicare and other government programs, which pay significantly lower prices for dialysis, would not receive rebates.

It’s been a costly campaign, suggesting high stakes for both sides. The union, which sponsored the initiative and represents over 150,000 nurses and other health care workers in California, so far has invested nearly $17 million in the effort.

Two leading national for-profit dialysis companies, DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care, dominate California’s market and are fighting back hard, contributing more than $40 million and $22 million respectively to defeat the measure. Overall, dialysis companies have raised more than $72 million to oppose the initiative.

In California, close to 70,000 patients need regular dialysis, which essentially performs the function of kidneys for patients whose own kidneys are failing. DaVita and Fresenius control 70 percent of the nation’s market. Between them, they reported more than $4 billion in operating profits last year.

Proponents say the initiative would spur clinics to reduce executive salaries, increase investment in patient care and lower the prices for patients with private insurance.

“It will allow these companies to make good profits, but not the obscene profits they make now,” said Steve Trossman, a spokesman for the union and the “Yes on 8” campaign.

Opponents argue the issue is too complicated to be decided at the polls and that it could reduce patients’ access to care, causing the vast majority of clinics to lose money and forcing many to shut down.

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Read the full article on California Healthline.