July 28, 2022

Vote no on union’s Prop. 29 attack on kidney dialysis firms

San Jose Mercury NewsBy Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial boards

Proposition 29 is the worst kind of abuse of California’s election system.

For the third time in five years, leaders of a large labor union are asking voters to approve unnecessary regulations for the kidney dialysis industry that would make it harder for patients to receive critical care.

The Service Employees International Union realizes by now that it has little chance of winning voter approval. But that’s not the game. Rather, they’re using the initiative system as a form of political blackmail designed to force the leading kidney dialysis firms to eventually cave to demands to unionize clinic workers.

SEIU leaders keep qualifying regulatory ballot measures that oblige kidney dialysis firms to spend about $100 million each time educating voters on the complexities of their industry. Meanwhile, if history holds, the union will spend little on its campaign. It just wants to make the companies feel political pain.

Voters saw through this nonsense in turning back Prop. 8 in 2018 (59.9%-40.1%) and Prop. 23 in 2020 (63.4%-36.6%). They should similarly reject Prop. 29, signaling to SEIU that they’re tired of its political blackmail of a critical health care industry.

Dialysis treatment is a matter of life and death for the 80,000 Californians who receive treatment three times a week at about 650 licensed chronic dialysis clinics. Physicians warn that patients missing even one treatment increase their risk of death by 30%.

Regulation of the industry is complex and best suited for the Legislature rather than the ballot box. If changes are needed, lawmakers should hear from experts in the field, thoroughly vet any new laws and be open to alterations dictated by sound medical advice. The California Medical Association understands that, which is why it steadfastly opposes Prop. 29.

The latest ballot measure would require that kidney dialysis clinics have a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant with six months relevant experience on site 24/7. It would authorize an exemption for staffing shortages if a qualified medical professional is available through telehealth.

Doctors, including the CMA, disagree on the need, and the Legislative Analyst’s Office warns that the requirement would increase a clinic’s costs by several hundred thousand dollars annually on average, potentially forcing some clinics to close or operate at a loss. That could be devastating to patients, who could be forced to travel longer distances to receive treatments.

The measure would also require clinics to disclose to patients if any doctors have an ownership interest of at least 5% in the clinic. Spreading sunshine on a potential conflict of interest is generally welcome, but it doesn’t tip the scales in support of the ballot measure.

Voters have rejected the two previous kidney dialysis ballot measures with good reason. They should do so again by voting no on Prop. 29.

Paid for by No on 29: Stop Yet Another Dangerous Dialysis Proposition, sponsored by patients, doctors, nurses and dialysis providers. Committee major funding from DaVita, Fresenius Medical Care, and U.S. Renal Care.

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