Less than 4 months after California Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr. vetoed legislation that would have allowed state health regulators to restrict outpatient dialysis center profits - and California voters turned down the idea at the polls last November - a California lawmaker has introduced a bill to bring back the plan along with restricting third party payers like the American Kidney Fund from covering insurance premiums for patients with ESRD.
State Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa, chair of the Assembly Health Committee, said in introducing A.B. 290 on January 28 that it would prevent dialysis providers from “increasing their already excessive corporate profits through a scheme to bankroll patients’ health care premiums.
“We fought this battle last year with S.B. 1156, and I’m back to take up the fight and am all-in to protect dialysis patients and do what is right,” Wood said in a press release. “Runaway costs in health care affect everyone, and I’m committed to protecting patients, but I’m not interested in protecting dialysis companies from scamming the system for their own benefit.”
After Brown’s veto of S.B. 1156 last September, California residents overwhelmingly voted down a separate ballot initiative last November that would have allowed the state to limit dialysis company profits. Both efforts were supported by the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) which has been trying to unionize dialysis workers in the state.
LaVarne A. Burton, president and CEO of the AKF, said in a statement that the organization is still reviewing the bill but added, “We are disappointed to see another bill in California that singles out low-income, mostly minority dialysis patients to be targeted for discriminatory health insurance practices ... Our concern is, and has always been, that low-income dialysis patients continue to have access to the health care they need to stay alive. Charitable premium assistance from AKF is what makes that possible.”