If there’s one positive thing about the Republicans’ attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act with their hastily scribbled, grotesquely cruel and greedy alternative the American Health Care Act (and there really isn’t), it’s that Americans are becoming more aware of the myriad ways medical and insurance corporations are screwing them over. And on last night’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver used the second half of the episode to do a deep dive into the American dialysis industry.
One of the benefits of Oliver’s extended examinations of various, invariably infuriating topics is his ability to uncover both the reasons why people should be pissed and the awful people they should be pissed at. Here, Oliver prefaces his investigation by assuring viewers that the topic isn’t going to be dull, urging them not to press that button on their remote marked “Dear God, literally anything else.” He needn’t worry, as his takedown of the lawsuit-plagued, barely overseen for-profit kidney dialysis industry focuses on one Kent Thiry, head of dialysis giant DaVita. Thiry’s management style is shown to draw inspiration, in equal parts, from Taco Bell and the 1998 “elderly Musketeers and Leonardo DiCaprio in a head cage” swashbuckler The Man In The Iron Mask.
And, sure, Thiry’s “eccentric” leadership (he wears nearly as many costumes as Dean Pelton on Community) makes for good TV. But Oliver as usual, also delves into the intricacies of his subject, detailing both the alleged abuses rampant in the dialysis industry (to the tune of a billion dollars in settlements over the past few years), and the improbably fascinating facts about American kidney care. For example, in 1972, Richard Nixon essentially created socialized medicine in America by guaranteeing full government medical coverage—but only for kidneys. With all the debate about health care raging in congress, Oliver says, it’s weirdly comforting to think that your kidneys are essentially Canadian.