The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Dialysis:
Profiteering from the Desperately Ill

Aug 6, 2018

The Service Employees International Union has sponsored an initiative, called Proposition 8, on the California ballot for the November election. It is a proposal to cap profits at 15 percent for kidney dialysis, a procedure to eliminate toxins from the blood.

Proposition 8 is a response to the killing rates of profit charged, especially by two big companies, DaVita and Fresenius. Together they dominate the dialysis market in the U.S., with about 70 percent of the market share.

DaVita and Fresenius, which reported a combined profit of more than 4 billion dollars in 2017, did not waste any time launching a “No on 8” campaign. The two companies have already spent 8 million dollars to defeat Prop 8 three months before the vote. They say that if Prop 8 passes, dialysis clinics will shut down, which in turn will harm patients. An obvious attempt at blackmail, no doubt.

The problem is, dialysis is no ordinary business. In fact, in any society that respects human life, dialysis should not be treated as a business at all. Dialysis patients are people with kidney failure, who must have their blood cleaned by a dialysis machine three times a week ... or else they will die.

But these dialysis companies act exactly like they don’t care about human life. They short-staff their clinics and push their workers to treat patients faster – which increases the risk of infections and can be life-threatening for patients if complications arise.

Faced with patient complaints, the public health agencies of eight states have mandated minimum staffing levels for dialysis clinics. In California, however, neither the state’s health agency nor the legislature has enacted such rules. For these elected politicians – the vast majority of whom are Democrats – and for the companies they represent, profits are apparently more sacred than human life.