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CMA Board of Trustees votes to oppose dialysis ballot initiative

March 11, 2020

Measure dangerous for dialysis patients and would increase health care costs and make physician shortage worse for all Californians

Sacramento, CA — The Board of Trustees of the California Medical Association (CMA) voted to take an early “oppose” position on a proposed November ballot initiative that threatens dialysis patients’ access to their life-saving treatment. The proposition would also directly and negatively impact all Californians by making our physician shortage worse and unnecessarily driving up health care costs by hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Among other provisions, this proposed ballot measure mandates that each of the roughly 600 dialysis clinics in California have a physician on site at each clinic during all operating hours.

These physicians would likely not be involved in patient care and would be in bureaucratic non-care roles. That’s because dialysis is prescribed by a patient’s personal kidney doctor (a nephrologist) and dialysis treatments are administered by specially trained nephrology nurses, patient care technicians and other licensed professionals. Existing federal law requires each dialysis clinic to have a physician medical director that oversees patient care.

CMA President Peter N. Bretan, M.D. stated, “This ballot measure would unnecessarily increase health care costs and make the doctor shortage even worse for all Californians by moving thousands of practicing doctors into non-care roles in dialysis clinics. The proposition jeopardizes access to care for tens of thousands of patients who depend on dialysis to stay alive.”

Analysis conducted by the Berkeley Research Group found that this measure would increase dialysis treatment costs by $320 million every year and nearly half of dialysis clinics in the state would operate at a loss. This could force clinics to scale back services or shut down completely.

According to the independent, non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s review of the proposition: “Given the higher costs due to the measure, some governing entities may decide to close some clinics.”

Approximately 80,000 Californians with chronic kidney disease rely on dialysis to stay alive. Without convenient access to community clinics, patients will have to travel long distances or miss treatments and become very ill. This is very alarming given that missing even one single treatment increases a dialysis patients’ risk of death by 30%.

More information can be found at NoDialysisProp.com.