SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In an attempt to improve patient care for people with kidney failure and lower healthcare costs in California, the country’s largest public pension fund today endorsed a statewide initiative that qualified for the Nov. 6 ballot.

A CalPERS staff report released before the vote said the initiative “supports the CalPERS 2017-22 Strategic Plan Goal to improve Health Care Affordability by transforming health care purchasing and delivery, to make it affordable while providing the best value in health care to our members.”

“This endorsement speaks volumes about how this ballot initiative will help dialysis patients and provide a cost savings for millions of Californians,” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, which is the sponsor of the initiative.

CalPERS manages pensions and health benefits for more than 1.9 million California public employees, retirees, and their families. It has assets of $355 billion.

Its share of dialysis treatment costs has been increasing. In plan year 2017, a total of 1,550 CalPERS members received dialysis at a cost of $62 million, a 10.7 percent increase from the $56 million spent the prior year.

CalPERS joins more than 130 organizations supporting the Fair Pricing for Dialysis Act, including healthcare, veterans and community groups, civil rights and social justice organizations, churches and labor unions.

The initiative limits dialysis corporations’ revenues to 15 percent above the amount they spend on patient care and pushes them to invest in hiring more staff, buying new medical equipment, and improving facilities. According to the U.S. Renal Data System, 66,000 Californians with life-threatening kidney failure get treatment in the state’s dialysis clinics.

The two largest companies, DaVita and Fresenius have a virtual monopoly on dialysis in California, owning 72 percent of the clinics in the state. The companies had a combined $3.9 billion in profits from their U.S. dialysis operations in 2016, and the profit margin of their clinics is nearly five times higher than an average hospital in California.

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