Comedian John Oliver took aim at the U.S. dialysis industry May 15 on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight.” During a 24-minute segment, which focused heavily on DaVita, Oliver described dialysis as a “Brita pitcher for your blood,” and cited a ProPublica investigation that found the U.S. has one of the industrialized world’s highest mortality rates for dialysis patients, despite the high cost of care. A YouTube video of the segment has been viewed more than four million times. (Update: As of June 23, 2017, the YouTube video as received almost 5.3 million views.)
“We’re spending the most to essentially get the least,” Oliver said. “We’re basically paying for a fully loaded Lamborghini and receiving a drunk donkey on roller skates.”
Oliver provided a brief history of the U.S. End-Stage Renal Disease Program. “The story of dialysis is an amazing case study of good intentions being thwarted by bad incentives, poor oversight, and profiteering,” Oliver said. And one of the key characters, he said, is DaVita CEO Kent Thiry.
Oliver focused on DaVita because it’s one of the largest dialysis providers, has a history of being investigated for Medicare fraud, and has an eccentric CEO. But Oliver noted that there are problems with the whole U.S. dialysis industry. He said there were also significant issues with Fresenius Medical Care and mentioned the Granuflo lawsuits. He also took aim at the 5-star rating system for dialysis facilities.
The segment features clips of Thiry dressed as a musketeer at annual employee gatherings, quoting the movie “The Man in the Iron Mask,” and calling himself the mayor.
The segment also features a clip of Thiry saying he runs his clinics the same way he would Taco Bell franchises.
DaVita provided NN&I the following written statement in response to the segment: “We are proud of our differentiated clinical outcomes, our teammates’ dedication to patient care and our strong culture. Our teammates are passionate about delivering high-quality patient care and enabling our patients to live fulfilling lives. We will continue to advocate for our patients and invest in our teammates and our culture.”
Watch the YouTube video below. It contains adult language and is not safe for work.
What do you think of the video? Do we pay too much in the U.S. for the quality of care patients’ receive?