California high court rejects attempt to remove dialysis initiative from November ballot

California's Supreme Court has rejected a pre-election challenge to block a statewide dialysis ballot initiative in November.

The Fair Pricing for Dialysis Act qualified for the ballot earlier this month, although the initiative's sponsor, Service Employees International Union–United Healthcare Workers West, has until June 28 to decide if they want to keep the initiative on the ballot.

 A petition to block the measure from going before voters was filed, but the state high court denied the petition June 13, according to SEIU-UHW, which is among more than 130 organizations supporting the initiative, including healthcare organizations, churches and labor unions.

"The court's order shows dialysis groups cannot silence the voice of voters who want to make sure quality and safe care for vulnerable patients with kidney failure are the focus, not massive industry profits," said Dave Regan, union president. "Opponents didn't think they could stop this initiative at the ballot box, so they tried to stop it in the courts. It didn't work."

Andrea Messina, executive director of the California Dialysis Council, and Patient and Caregivers to Protect Dialysis Patients filed the dismissed petition.

Kathy Fairbanks, spokesperson for the Patients and Caregivers to Protect Dialysis Patients, a coalition of about 100 groups such as the American Nurses Association of California, California Medical Association and emergency room physicians, was not surprised by the order.  

She told Becker's Hospital Review via email: "It is unusual for the courts to accept pre-election challenges so this outcome is not uncommon. This ballot measure is so flawed and so dangerous for dialysis patients that we intend to take all appropriate steps to ensure it's never enacted. We are confident that voters will reject this dangerous and deceptive scheme that will put the lives of vulnerable dialysis patients at grave risk."

If passed, the Fair Pricing for Dialysis Act would limit how much outpatient kidney dialysis clinics may charge for patient care, according to the Attorney General's official title and summary of the initiative. It also would penalize clinics for excessive charges, and requires clinics report information about clinic costs, patient charges, and revenue to the state each year. Additionally, clinics would be barred from discriminating against patients due to how they pay for care.

Supporters — which include healthcare, veterans and community groups, civil rights and social justice organizations, churches and labor unions — argue the initiative is a way to spur dialysis corporations to invest more in patient care. However, opponents contend dialysis clinics won't be able to cover their operating costs, dozens of clinics will close, and patients will lose access to dialysis if the initiative passes.

 

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