(COLUMBUS) – Ohioans Against the Reckless Dialysis Amendment, a broad coalition of leading kidney care organizations, nurses, physicians and patient advocates, today announced its opposition to a proposed Constitutional Amendment that threatens to reduce access to Ohio’s 326 out-patient dialysis clinics for the 18,000 Ohioans suffering from kidney failure.
Dialysis providers are among the most regulated healthcare provider groups in the country. All out-patient clinics are licensed by the Ohio Department of Health, certified by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and highly regulated under current state and federal laws and regulations. Current laws and regulations address, among other things, patient safety; environmental cleanliness; infection prevention and control; emergency preparedness; staff training and continuing education; and water system and equipment maintenance. Clinics must also submit to unannounced quality assessments and inspections by the Ohio Department of Health.
“The proposed amendment was written by a California-based special interest group with no experience in dialysis care and – without any evidence of a problem – would recklessly lock dangerous, arbitrary rules into the Ohio Constitution, threatening access to high-quality care for thousands of Ohioans,” said Diane Wish, co-founder and president of the Ohio Renal Association (ORA). “What’s worse, the amendment calls for rebates that will end up in the pockets of insurance companies, not patients.”
Wish, a registered nurse with more than 40 years of experience in providing dialysis treatment, is joined by other kidney care experts and physicians in opposition to the proposed amendment initiated by the California-based SEIU-UHW West.
“I’ve seen first-hand the devastating health consequences my dialysis patients face without proper access to care,” said Dr. Henry Wehrum, a nephrologist (kidney specialist) with nearly 30 years of experience in the field, who also serves on the board of the Ohio Osteopathic Association (OOA). “The Ohio Constitution is simply not the place for complicated healthcare policy. And because it’s written as a Constitutional Amendment, when things go wrong it can only be changed by another Constitutional Amendment – that’s not a risk I’m willing to take on behalf of my patients.”
Michael Needham, president and CEO of the Kidney Foundation of Ohio (KFO) added, “the Kidney Foundation of Ohio opposes the amendment because it will harm patients, not help them. The Amendment threatens to reduce the number of centers available to Ohioans, which would be especially harmful to vulnerable patients.” The Kidney Foundation of Ohio is a patient advocacy group that has been providing a broad-based program of direct assistance to those with kidney disease since 1950.
To date, the organizations opposing the amendment include:
Based on campaign finance filings, the California-based SEIU is believed to have hired hundreds of paid petition circulators, many from out-of-state, to gather signatures from Ohio voters. On Wednesday, July 4, the group submitted signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State in an attempt to qualify the issue for the November 6 Ohio statewide ballot. The petitions and signatures are now under review by elections officials.
“The SEIU has a long history of abusing the ballot issue process to advance its own political agenda,” said coalition spokesperson Gene Pierce. “That its amendment would actually harm Ohio dialysis patients comes as no surprise to those familiar with the SEIU’s strong-arm tactics.”
Among the proposed Constitutional mandates are provisions directing the Ohio Department of Health to establish arbitrary revenue limits for Ohio clinics and require rebates to private health insurance companies should revenues exceed those arbitrary limits. The amendment excludes Medicare, Medicaid and other government payers — which cover nearly 90 percent of dialysis patients in Ohio — from receiving rebates, leaving only private health insurance companies able to receive them. The amendment does not require insurance companies to pass on any savings to patients.
Coalition members are concerned that arbitrary revenue limits will force some dialysis providers to consolidate operations or close locations, reducing access to critical dialysis care – particularly for patients in rural, urban, and underserved areas.
The non-partisan coalition is planning a statewide campaign to educate Ohio voters on the ballot issue’s dangerous consequences, should the issue be placed on the ballot.
The estimated 18,000 Ohioans suffering from end stage renal disease (ESRD) typically receive life-preserving dialysis treatments in a clinic three times a week, with each visit taking three to four hours. According to national research, missing even one dialysis treatment increases a patient’s risk of death by 30 per cent. Find more information on ESRD in Ohio here.