Proposition 8, the measure proposing to allow the state to regulate how much outpatient kidney dialysis clinics can charge patients for dialysis treatments, among other restrictions, has been defeated.
“Prop. 8 would have harmed vulnerable dialysis patients by restricting access to life-saving dialysis treatments. Thankfully, voters made the smart, compassionate decision to reject it,” said Theodore M. Mazer, immediate past president, California Medical Association, which represents 43,000 physicians in California. “CMA and its members have and will continue to always fight to support patient safety, while opposing any policies, whether at the ballot box or in the legislature, that restrict patients’ access to care.”
Had it passed, Prop. 8 would have put a ceiling on the profits of dialysis centers, limiting revenues to 115 percent of the cost of treatment. If the centers’ charges exceeded the limit, they would have to reimburse the overage to health insurers and any other companies that pay for dialysis treatment. The initiative also prohibited clinics from refusing to treat patients with limited resources, and required annual reporting to the state of clinic costs, revenue and patient charges.
Prop. 8 opponents contributed more than $111 million to defeat the measure, according to state campaign finance reports. DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care, the two largest dialysis companies in the nation, contributed the most. DaVita spent $66.6 million to defeat the measure, while Fresenius spent $40.8 million.
Denver-based DaVita has more than a dozen clinics in the North Bay, spread throughout the six-county region. Fresenius, with U.S. headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts, has five dialysis centers in the North Bay, including locations in Dixon, Fairfield, Petaluma and two in Santa Rosa.
The Marin Independent Journal, Napa Valley Register and the Press Democrat, which like the Business Journal is owned by Sonoma Media Investments, were among the more than 30 California newspapers that published editorials opposing Prop. 8.
Supporters of Prop. 8 — largely patient-advocacy groups and nonprofit associations — wanted to see more restrictions and accountability placed on dialysis centers, which they contend focus more on profit than patient care.
Marin Professional Firefighters was one of the associations in favor of the initiative. The county’s firefighters are first to respond when there is a problem with a clinic, and a patient needs immediate help, said Ken Martin, a retired firefighter and political director of Marin Professional Firefighters.
“We’re disappointed in the defeat, obviously,” Martin said. “We supported (Prop. 8) because we sat down with United Healthcare Workers (West), and they brought forward some pretty disturbing facts: Eighty percent of the dialysis clinics are run by two companies (DaVita and Fresenius), so they’re manipulating the health care system, and that is not beneficial to anybody.”
Advocates for Prop. 8 had spent $11.3 million to air 30-second ads on nearly three dozen TV stations throughout the state’s major markets, including the San Francisco Bay Area, according to Californians for Kidney Dialysis Patients Protection, sponsored by Service Employees International Union — United Healthcare Workers West. The TV spots assert that dialysis clinics prioritize profit over quality of care, and that by adding more governmental regulations, the clinics would be forced to lower the cost of health care.