If my kidneys hurt, can I blame Prop 8?

Prop 8 is a November ballot initiative of the type that gives ballot initiatives a bad name. It’s a narrow question about what sort of restrictions should we put on how revenues are used in one particular kind of medical facility, in this case dialysis clinics.

It’s not the sort of question that informed citizens should know much about. And it’s not the kind of question that the people need to settle. And yet, it’s landed in our laps.

Why? Well to read the initiative text and arguments gave me contempt for both sides.

The measure is on the ballot because of efforts by labor unions to pressure the dialysis industry and organize its workers. Of course, there is little to like in that dialysis industry, which is dominated by two big firms. The consolidated industry has tried to ramp up how much money it makes through schemes that divert patients from Medicare, which pays for dialysis at a much lower rate.

The yes campaign is arguing that a cap on revenues to clinics will somehow solve the complicated problems of health care and its costs. That’s dubious. The industry-funded “no” campaign is also making ridiculous claims about a supposed decimation of dialysis clinics if this passes. Please.

If only there were a way to vote against the yes and no side of a ballot initiative! This one would deserve a double-no vote.

Put simply, this doesn’t belong on a ballot. Labor unions should be able to convince their Democratic allies who control the legislature to do their bidding; if they can’t convince them, there’s a good chance that there’s something wrong with what they’re asking. And the dialysis business has plenty of money to represent itself in the legislature.

Which is why the legislature is where something like this should be handled.