OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU - Proposition 8 has become one of the most expensive measures on the November ballot, with both sides of the issue spending more than $20 million combined on their campaigns. If passed, the measure would cap the revenue of California's kidney dialysis clinics, but supporters and opponents have different takes on how that would affect Californians.
Dialysis clinics serve nearly one million kidney disease patients in California every year. Proposition 8 would limit those clinics' revenue and require them to issue refunds for anything exceeding that limit.
If that sounds obscure to you, there's a reason, according to Yvonne Leow, co-founder of the non-partisan By the Bay voter guide. "It's actually a battle between labor unions and these dialysis clinic companies," Leow said. Proposition 8 was put on the ballot by labor unions, who have been trying to unionize since 2016. "What they realized is they could go through the legislative process... in order to gain leverage."
The "Yes on 8" campaign was funded mostly by the SEIU-UHW West, which claims the measure protects workers and patients and stops dialysis companies from overcharging, which would then bring down the cost of health care premiums. Leow says that result is uncertain. "It's hard to predict how these dialysis clinics react to something like Prop. 8 and how they manage their books."
The "No on 8" campaign is funded by California's two largest dialysis clinics, DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care, who say Proposition 8 jeopardizes access dialysis patients need to survive, and increases costs for all Californians by hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Leow says that claim is untrue, at least not directly. "It would have to be a secondary effect if those clinics were to actually close and somehow the state would have to absorb those closures.
The Legislative Analyst's Office says right now, most dialysis clinics operating in California have revenues in excess of the Proposition 8 revenue cap, which means the measure would make those clinics less profitable or even unprofitable, and could in turn lead to changes in how dialysis treatment is provided in the state.