Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Tuesday, Sept. 26 from 6:30-8:30 p.m., I'll be sitting down with Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) at the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton (345 6th St., Ste. 500) to discuss our records of working across the aisle and how lawmakers can find common ground on the biggest issues we face. The program, which is free to the public, is part of the League of Women Voter's “civil political discourse” series. I'm very much looking forward to the conversation, and hope you will be able to join us!
One issue in which Rep. Appleton and I have been able to find some common ground on this year is health care. In February, we co-authored an op-ed about how rising medical costs and a downward spiral in consumer choice has created uncertainty and frustration in Kitsap County. Below is an excerpt from that piece:
In the past few years, CHI Franciscan Health has merged with Harrison Medical Center and The Doctors Clinic. Prior to these mergers, 65 percent of physicians in Kitsap County were independent. That number now stands at 27 percent. Every cardiologist, oncologist, pulmonologist, urologist, and vascular and orthopedic surgeon in Kitsap County is now employed or contracted by CHI Franciscan Health. Additionally, every hospital in the county is now a CHI Franciscan hospital, which has limited options available to consumers.
On Feb. 21, a public hearing was held by the Department of Health to discuss CHI Franciscan's proposal to take hundreds of beds from Harrison's Bremerton campus and move them to its Silverdale campus. If this proposal is approved, people may have even more difficulty finding access to care on the south end of the county.
Because of these mergers, there has been a drastic increase in the number of procedures performed at Hospital Outpatient Departments (HOPDs) that were formerly performed at Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASC). When care is provided at HOPDs, costs are considerably higher than when it is provided at independent outpatient centers or ASCs. According to FAIR Health, the cost difference of common procedures and tests is stark. For example:
ASC: $1,750 ($500 out of pocket)
HOPD: $3,250 ($1,000 out of pocket)
ASC: $1,250 ($500 out of pocket);
HOPD: $4,250 ($1,250 out of pocket)
Outpatient: $500 ($200 out of pocket)
HOPD: $4,250 ($1,250 out of pocket)
On Aug. 31, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against CHI Franciscan, accusing the company of “price-fixing” and creating a monopoly that has put patients' health at risk. The antitrust lawsuit is the first of its kind filed against hospitals in the history of Washington state. In the course of their investigation, Ferguson and his team uncovered emails from officials at CHI Franciscan and The Doctors Clinic that showed financial motivations were prioritized above patient care.
In one email, CHI Franciscan Chief Financial Officer Mike Fitzgerald wrote: “I am all for taking advantage of hospital based pricing… It would be great to drop a couple of million more to our bottom line, if we think we can do it.” In another email, the former physician president of The Doctors Clinic sarcastically wrote, “You can now get your outpatient care at a complex, relatively unsafe and vastly more expensive location. You are welcome, Kitsap County.”
Obviously, both of these emails are incredibly disturbing. It's vital Kitsap County residents have proper access to health care, a choice in where to receive that care, and the confidence to know they're not being taken advantage of financially. I fully support the AG's lawsuit and hope it's successful.
As always, I welcome you to contact me with your comments, questions and concerns. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and my phone number is (360) 786-7802. I'm also happy to meet with you in district.
As I mentioned above, I hope you will join me on Tuesday, Sept. 26 at the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton for my conversation with Rep. Appleton about working across the aisle and finding common ground on the most pressing issues we face. It should be a great night of conversation.
It is an honor to serve as your state representative.