Dialysis

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO 

AB 290 aims to crack down on a dialysis-industry practice: signing patients who would qualify for Medicare with a company that will pay their premiums for private insurance instead, because those insurers pay more for dialysis than the government-run program. The “third-party” companies are nonprofits that receive a significant amount of funding from dialysis providers. The bill would allow patients already in these arrangements to continue but would bar dialysis companies from steering people to third-party payers in the future. It wouldn’t go into effect until 2022.

WHO SUPPORTS IT?

Assemblyman Jim Wood, the bill’s author, calls third-party arrangements a “scam” by dialysis companies that have figured out a way to get inflated reimbursement rates. Health Access California and the California Labor Federation also support the bill.

WHO’S OPPOSED? 

Dialysis companies DaVita and Fresenius, the nation’s two largest providers, spent nearly $1 million this year lobbying on this and other health issues in Sacramento. Opponents were successful in having the bill amended to push the start date to 2022 and to “grandfather” in those already enrolled with third-party payers.

WHY IT MATTERS

There have been several efforts in recent years to regulate the deep-pocketed dialysis industry. If this bill becomes law, it’s possible that more regulations could be imposed on the industry in the future.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

It wasn’t clear whether the governor would sign this measure, which was amended 52 times. Former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill last year. But on Oct. 13, 2019, Newsom signed it, “consistent with our imperative to address rising health care costs,” urging all sides to “put patients first.”