Union submits more signatures for dialysis profits ballot initiative in Ohio
Organizers of a union-backed initiative to limit dialysis provider profits in Ohio have submitted additional signatures that should get the measure on the Nov. 6 election ballot.
“ ... We submitted 41,000 signatures yesterday [Aug. 1] to Ohio election officials,” Sean Wherley, a spokesperson for Los Angeles-based SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West told Healio/Nephrology.” Wherley said the Ohio Secretary of State has until Sept. 2 to certify the signatures.
The union and other backers of the Ohio initiative, called the Kidney Patient Protection Amendment, had submitted 296,080 signatures by the July 19 deadline, but were short 9,511 of the 305,591 required to meet the constitutional and legal requirements to get on the Nov. 6 ballot. Based on the initial number of signatures turned in to the state, the Secretary of State Office gave supporters an additional 10 days to address the signature shortfall. The state determines the required valid signatures based on a number equal to 10% of the total votes cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election, which was in 2014.
As part of the total number of signatures needed to place the measure on the state-wide ballot, petitioners must also submit signatures from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties.
The Ohio initiative is similar in intent to one that is set for the November ballot in California. Both proposals, backed by the SEIU, call for limiting profits of dialysis providers to no more than 115% of their costs for patient care. Additional profits would be returned, in the form of rebates, by the dialysis providers to commercial health plans who have patients being treated in dialysis clinics.
However, there are key differences between the two measures, said Gene Pierce, who is directing the efforts to fight the ballot initiative in Ohio with a coalition called the Ohioans Against the Reckless Dialysis Amendment. The Ohio proposal would be an amendment to the state Constitution that “has no formula for calculating revenues. Instead, the ballot language charges the Ohio Department of Health to calculate these figures,” Pierce told Healio/Nephrology. “That is a task the department has no experience in performing or qualified staff” to determine how much should be returned to the commercial health plans, said Pierce. “The other major difference between Ohio and California is that Ohio’s proposal enshrines these changes in the Ohio Constitution. If technology, best practices or funding sources or levels, etc. impact future treatment practices, any appropriate adjustments or revisions would need to be approved by a future statewide referendum,” he wrote. “Our governor or state legislature cannot change the Constitution. This would be a cumbersome, lengthy process and could put patients at risk from unintended consequences that would impact their health.”
The Ohio proposal also would require annual inspections of dialysis facilities. Pierce said more than 20 medical or patient advocacy groups have expressed opposition to the Kidney Patient Protection Amendment, including the Ohio State Medical Association and the Kidney Foundation of Ohio. –by Mark E. Neumann