[Feb. 5, 2018] LOS ANGELES – Dialysis patients and advocates launched a $3.5 million national media campaign today featuring ads on national cable networks, consumer health websites and social media and in newspapers to raise awareness of problems plaguing the dialysis industry, including understaffing, unsanitary conditions and overcharging patients.
“I go in for dialysis three times a week but my clinic is not properly staffed,” said Richard Adling, a veteran and dialysis patient from Jurupa Valley, Calif., who is featured in one of the TV spots. “They’ve got one technician there but he’s looking at nine other patients. These companies are making billions of dollars and there’s no reason they can’t properly staff the facility.”
The ads will appear in Washington, D.C., California, Colorado and Massachusetts and highlight the practices of the dialysis industry giants, DaVita and Fresenius. The corporations reported a combined $3.9 billion in profits from their U.S. dialysis operations in 2016, and their domestic headquarters are based in Colorado and Massachusetts.
Television ads will be broadcast on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, FOX Business News and FOX News, and print ads will be published in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, Politico, The Hill, National Journal and the Sacramento Bee. Digital ads will be posted on several of those outlets’ websites in addition to CNNMoney, WebMD, Medscape, Facebook and Twitter.
The paid media campaign is part of a larger effort to improve patient care at dialysis clinics through a ballot initiative and state legislation.
Advocates filed a ballot initiative in California for the November 2018 election that would limit dialysis corporations from charging patients more than 15 percent above the cost of care. Organizers in California have collected more than 450,000 signatures and expect to submit them to election officials for verification by April 11.
California dialysis companies charge patients with private insurance an average of $150,000 for a year of dialysis treatment, or 350 percent above the cost of providing care. The average profit margin for dialysis clinics in California is 17 percent – nearly five times higher than the average margin for hospitals in the state.
In California, patients are supporting legislation to improve patient safety in the state’s 570 dialysis clinics. Senate Bill 349 would require safer staffing levels and more time for patients to recover after treatment. The bill passed the California Senate in May 2017 and is awaiting a floor vote in the California Assembly.
Last May, HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” broadcast a scathing segment about the dialysis industry and its attempts to maximize profits at the expense of patients. The clip has been viewed nearly 6.2 million times on YouTube.
Dialysis is a life-saving procedure that removes a patient’s blood, cleans it, and then puts it back in his or her body. Patients must go to a clinic three days a week, for three to four hours each time. More than 468,000 Americans rely on dialysis, including 66,000 patients in California.