John Oliver Shines a Light on the For-Profit Kidney Dialysis Industry
This has been a crazy, crazy week in politics, so naturally, John Oliver should be discussing President Trump's firing of James Comey and the ensuing circus we've all watched play out these last few days. True to form, he tackled this essential message, but it was by no means the most compelling segment of this week's episode of Last Week Tonight.
Rather than frustrate us even more with half an hour of musings about Trump, Oliver addressed an issue that deserves far more attention than it currently receives: kidney dialysis. Turns out, President Nixon, of all people, prioritized treatment for kidney disease, signing a bill guaranteeing that anybody with chronic renal disease or in need of a kidney transplant would automatically qualify for Medicare, whether or not they met the age requirements.
Unfortunately, while patients with kidney disease enjoy greater federal protection than those with other chronic illnesses and conditions, their situation is far from perfect. The for-profit kidney dialysis industry engages in some truly disturbing practices that put patients at risk. Examples include purposefully running dialysis providers like they're fast food joints (something DaVita CEO Kent Thiry oddly admitted to in 2009) and not using full vials of dialysis drug Venofer in hopes of extracting additional government funding.
Most disturbing, however, is dialysis companies' reluctance to properly inform patients of their full range of treatment options, including, most important, kidney transplant.
Always one to offer suggestions for the future, Oliver let those with hearts of gold and the less generous among us know what we can do to help. Kidney donation is a great option, but as Oliver acknowledged, one that most of us will probably not pursue. Instead, we can make it abundantly clear that we want to be kidney donors after we die.
Oliver recommends telling loved ones about your intention to be a kidney donor, but he's also taken the effort a step further with (what else?) a brand new hashtag: #WhenIDiePleaseTakeMyKidneys.
Thank you, John Oliver, for advocating on behalf of kidney disease patients and reminding the rest of us that we can help.