Dangerous and costly measure puts the lives dialysis patients at risk and makes our doctor shortage even worse

SACRAMENTO – Upon announcement today by the California Secretary of State that the Dangerous & Costly Dialysis Proposition is eligible for the November 2020 ballot, members of the coalition opposed to the initiative vowed to mount a comprehensive campaign to defeat the measure.

Opponents of the initiative include a broad array of doctors, nurses, dialysis providers, veterans, patients and others who maintain the proposition could jeopardize the lives of Californians with kidney failure  by forcing hundreds of dialysis clinics to cut back services or shut down completely – making it more difficult for dialysis patients to access their life-saving treatments. Furthermore, the measure would make the state’s current doctor shortage even worse, while unnecessarily increasing health care costs for taxpayers and consumers by hundreds of millions of dollars every year. All of this, in the midst of a global pandemic, threatens to put a strain on health care resources across California and our nation.

The main provision of the ballot measure requires that each of the roughly 600 dialysis clinics in California have a physician on the premises during all operating hours, a provision currently not mandated by the extensive state and federal regulations that already govern the dialysis community. A study by the Berkeley Research Group, an independent economic research firm, found this provision would increase dialysis treatment costs by $320 million every year and that nearly half of the clinics in the state would become financially unsustainable.

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

Because dialysis treatment is prescribed by a patient’s own nephrologist and administered by specially-trained nephrology nurses and patient care technicians, the physician-on-site requirement is completely unnecessary.  

“By moving nephrologists and experienced Physician Assistants (PAs) out of the hospital and offices, where a significant amount of our most vital work is done, this ballot measure will put all nephrology patients at risk,” said Kim Zuber, PAC, Executive Director of the American Academy of Nephrology Physician Assistants. “This measure would increase the already high cost of kidney failure for absolutely no additional benefit for the safety and care of dialysis patients.”

There are approximately 80,000 dialysis patients in California with failed kidneys who need machines to clean their blood and remove toxins from their bodies. Patients must receive dialysis treatment three times a week for four hours at a time to stay alive. Access to consistent dialysis treatments is so important that just one missed treatment increases patients’ risk of death by 30%.

“This irresponsible measure would lead to clinic closures and cutbacks that reduce patient access, while unnecessarily putting the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens in jeopardy,” said Hrant Jamgochian, CEO of Dialysis Patient Citizens, a national, nonprofit dialysis patient-led advocacy group representing 28,000 patient members, with more than 4,000 in California.

In addition to jeopardizing patients’ lives, the higher costs from this ballot measure will be passed on to all Californians in the form of higher insurance premiums and higher taxes for government-sponsored health care.

According to the independent, non-partisan California State Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), the measure would result in, “Increased state and local health care costs … resulting from increased dialysis treatment costs.”

“This initiative is costly for every taxpayer in California, whether a dialysis patient or not,” said Thomas N. Hudson, President of the California Taxpayer Protection Committee. “Higher health care for state and local governments get passed on to the rest of us and we end up footing the bill.”

This dangerous and costly ballot measure is being sponsored by the United Healthcare Workers West (UHW) union which bankrolled Proposition 8 on the November 2018 ballot. Prop 8 would have harmed dialysis patients and lost by 20 points. While unions have the right to try to unionize workers, it’s not right to abuse the initiative system and use vulnerable patients as political pawns.

Unless proponents withdraw this measure by June 25, 2020, the measure will appear on the ballot in November 2020.

Please visit www.NoDialysisProp.com for more information.