[Feb. 4, 2019] LOS ANGELES – The dialysis industry officially broke a national record by spending more than $110 million to oppose California’s Prop. 8, an initiative on last November’s ballot that would have improved patient care in the state’s dialysis clinics, according to a Jan. 31 report filed with the California Secretary of State’s office that is a final accounting of how much the industry spent.
“The dialysis industry spent all that money to scare California voters when they could have spent it on improving patient care in my clinic and the hundreds of others across the state,” said Amar Bajwa, a dialysis patient from Fontana, Calif. “While their corporate shareholders are happy with the election result, patients and workers are left wondering when – if ever – the companies will focus on us and improving day-to-day conditions.”
Dialysis workers and patients have reported seeing mice, cockroaches, bloodstains and broken equipment in dialysis clinics in California. In fact, the California Department of Public Health documented more than 1,400 deficiencies during inspections at dialysis clinics in fiscal year 2016-2017, and more than 4,400 dialysis patients in California died from infections in the last five years, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The $110 million in spending came almost entirely from the two largest dialysis corporations, DaVita and Fresenius, and included more than $90 million on television, radio, cable, newspaper and online advertising. The overall figure surpassed the previous national record spent in opposition to a ballot measure – set by drug companies in 2016, when they paid $109 million to defeat California’s Prop. 61, which would have reduced drug prices. It’s no coincidence that like Prop. 8, Prop. 61 would have curtailed the big profits of a major industry.
Prop. 8 would have limited dialysis corporate revenue to 15 percent above the amount they spent on patient care. It also would have encouraged them to invest more in hiring additional staff, buying new equipment, and improving facilities.
DaVita and Fresenius made a combined $4 billion in profits from their U.S. dialysis operations in 2017, and the profit margin of their clinics is nearly five times higher than an average hospital in California. The two companies own and operate 72 percent of all dialysis clinics in the state.
People with kidney failure often must undergo dialysis treatment three days a week for three or four hours at a time at clinics to remove their blood, clean it, and put it back in their bodies. An estimated 80,000 Californians receive treatment in dialysis clinics.