Kent Thiry, possible Colorado gubernatorial candidate, gets vicious treatment on HBO comedy show

Hear that laughter? It’s the sound of gubernatorial aspirations in pain. Colorado Politics told you last month that Kent Thiry, the CEO of Denver-based DaVita, is thinking about jumping into next year’s governor’s race.

Sunday night the HBO comedy news show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” spent 24 minutes tearing down Thiry’s business model in the for-profit dialysis industry, as well as making fun of his eccentric motivational style.

Oliver made joked about Thiry’s passin for the “The Three Musketeers,” showing clips from company meetings of Thiry in costume doing barefoot gymnastics (to “Old Time Rock and Roll”) and riding a horse or a bicycle.

Moreover, Oliver attacks the dialysis industry that has seen the number of patients more than quadruple since Richard Nixon signed a Medicare entitlement in 1972 to pay for dialysis treatment (“universal healthcare for one organ in the body,” Oliver said).

After clips of a former DaVita employee and patient saying the company was a volume business that cut corners, Oliver played a clip of Thiry talking about his business model.

“If I had 1,400 Taco Bells and 32,000 people working in them,” he began, citing the size of DaVita, “I would be doing all the same stuff.”

Oliver was comedically aghast at operating a healthcare company like a fast-food restaurant with a drive-through window.

“America’s kidneys are too important to be treated like a fast-food experience,” he said.

Oliver reported on three out-of-court settlements totaling nearly $1 billion that DaVita has agreed in three cases in the past five years.

Thiry’s people are working on a response, and I’ll update this blog or start fresh when I they respond.

For certain, excerpts from such a national takedown would play on loop next year if Thiry’s a candidate for governor. Then again, our current governor rode cornball antics into the job, but even John Hickenlooper is no Musketeer.

Thiry didn’t respond, but his company did:

“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.”

It’s uncertain if Thiry will jump in the race. He backed a successfult ballot initiative in Colorado last year that will allow unaffiliated voters to participate in next year’s primary.

That could be to his advantage since he switched from unaffiliated to Republican days before his operatives began working the press about his potential entry into the GOP primary.

Editor’s note: This blog was corrected to reflect that the Raise the Bar initiative made it harder to amend the state constitution. Thiry supported a ballot initiative to allow unaffiliated voters to participate in primaries.

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