LOS ANGELES – The dialysis industry has turned a fight to protect its corporate profits into the most expensive ballot initiative in the country this year, so far dumping an almost unheard of $98.8 million into its campaign to defeat California’s Prop. 8, a measure to improve patient care in the state’s dialysis clinics.

The total is fueled by the two largest dialysis corporations, DaVita and Fresenius, which contributed a combined $90 million, and is quickly approaching the national record in opposition to a ballot measure – set by drug companies in 2016, when they spent $109 million to defeat Prop. 61, which would have reduced drug prices in California. It’s no coincidence that like Prop. 8, Prop. 61 would have curtailed the big profits of a major industry.

“The spending by these giant dialysis corporations proves what we have been saying all along – that the priority of the dialysis industry is protecting its obscene profits, not ensuring the highest quality care for patients,” said Amar Bajwa, a dialysis patient from Fontana, Calif. “If their billions in profits are on the line, they can’t write their giant checks fast enough.”

Workers and patients report seeing mice, cockroaches, bloodstains and broken equipment in dialysis clinics in California. In fact, the California Department of Public Health documented more than 1,400 deficiencies during inspections at dialysis clinics in fiscal year 2016-2017, and more than 4,400 dialysis patients in California died from infections in the last five years, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Last week, supporters of Prop. 8 started broadcasting a 30-second spot on 33 channels throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego.

Prop. 8 limits dialysis corporations’ revenues to 15 percent above the amount they spend on patient care and pushes them to invest more in hiring additional staff, buying new equipment, and improving facilities. An estimated 80,000 Californians with life-threatening kidney failure get treatment in dialysis clinics.

DaVita and Fresenius made a combined $4 billion in profits from their U.S. dialysis operations in 2017, and the profit margin of their clinics is nearly five times higher than an average hospital in California. The two companies own and operate 72 percent of all dialysis clinics in the state.

People with kidney failure often must undergo dialysis treatment three days a week for three or four hours at a time at clinics to remove their blood, clean it, and put it back in their bodies.