A ballot initiative that would limit the profits of dialysis providers in California goes before a joint hearing of two state Senate Committees today.
Members of the California Senate Health and Assembly Health Committees will not be casting votes at the hearing on whether the initiative should go on the ballot; supporters have already turned in nearly 600,000 voter signatures to election officials. The state requires 365,880 valid signatures for placing a question on the ballot. According to the Californians for Kidney Dialysis Patient Protection, which has been promoting the initiative and receives major funding from the Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West, the California Secretary of State is expected to announce before June 1 that the initiative qualifies for the Nov. 6 ballot.
Called the Fair Pricing for Dialysis Act, the measure would limit dialysis corporations’ revenues in the state to no more than 15% above the cost of providing care, and would only impact patients who are given dialysis treatment under commercial health plans, not Medicare or the state’s MediCal health insurance program. Supporters say it will push the dialysis providers to invest more of their profits in patient care by hiring more staff, buying new equipment and improving facilities.
The ballot measure is opposed by dialysis providers, who say restricting company profits will force them to close clinics. The advocacy group Patients and Caregivers to Protect Dialysis Patients, which receives major funding from Fresenius Medical Care and DaVita Kidney Care, received support recently from state ER doctors. The California chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) said in a press release that the measure would increase the risk of life-threatening complications in patients on dialysis.
“As emergency physicians, we regularly treat dialysis patients who end up in the ER due to missed dialysis appointments or complications from kidney failure,” Aimee Moulin, MD, FACP, president of the California chapter of the ACEP, said in the release. “By reducing access to dialysis care, this proposition will leave this fragile population no choice but to go to the emergency room for treatment, or increase their risk for life-threatening complications. Treating dialysis patients in the emergency room instead of in outpatient clinics is more expensive and will drive up the cost of care for the entire health care system.”