August 21, 2022
Vote no on union’s Prop. 29 attack on dialysis clinics
Santa Cruz SentinelBy Santa Cruz Sentinel Editorial Board
Proposition 29 on the November ballot is an abuse of California’s election system – again.
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.
Here’s what we said when we opposed a similar measure, Prop. 23, that was put before voters in 2020:
“It’s a reworking of a measure that voters rejected two years ago that would have limited the profits of kidney dialysis clinics by increasing their overall work force.
“As with several measures on the ballot, Prop. 23’s support comes from … the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, which has targeted the companies that operate dialysis clinics and had vowed to come back with another measure after the 2018 one went down.
“(But) this measure isn’t really about patient safety … Raising costs and exacerbating the shortage of physicians is not the roadmap to improving kidney patients’ health care.”
But here we are again, with a third try from the SEIU, which has to realize after two failed attempts it has little chance of winning voter approval.
But that’s not the objective. What’s really behind these attempts is the SEIU using the state initiative system as a form of political blackmail meant to force the leading kidney dialysis firms to eventually cave to demands to unionize clinic workers.
SEIU leaders keep qualifying these ballot measures that in turn provoke 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 and financial pain.
Voters saw through these manipulations 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 the SEIU they’re done with 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%.
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 California Medical Association, disagree on the need, and the Legislative Analyst’s Office warns, as it did with the previous ballot measures, 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. Providing transparency on any potential conflict of interest is welcome, but is not enough, by a long shot, to create support of this misleading ballot measure.
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, and thoroughly vet any new laws while listening to sound medical advice. The CMA understands that, and steadfastly opposes Prop. 29.
Voters have rejected the two previous kidney dialysis ballot measures for good reason. They should do so again and vote no on Prop. 29.