Concerns abound for the future of health care in Kitsap County
Special to the Kitsap Sun.
Rising medical costs are a major concern for families across Washington state. Insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses have skyrocketed in recent years, with premiums rising an average of 13.5 percent last year alone. We have also seen a downward spiral in consumer choice, as Premera and Lifewise have stopped selling plans outside the state exchange, and UnitedHealthcare and Moda have both withdrawn from Washington's insurance marketplace altogether.
In Kitsap County, we have seen other changes take place in the health care industry that have resulted in fewer choices and less timely access for consumers, as well as increased overall costs.
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:
Breast Biopsy: ASC: $1,750 ($500 out of pocket) HOPD: $3,250 ($1,000 out of pocket)
Colonoscopy: ASC: $1,250 ($500 out of pocket) HOPD: $4,250 ($1,250 out of pocket)
Echocardiogram: Outpatient: $500 ($200 out of pocket) HOPD: $4,250 ($1,250 out of pocket)
We recently met with constituents, as well as representatives from the Department of Health, the governor's office and the attorney general's office to discuss all of these issues. We now want to hear from you. Please send us your thoughts about CHI Franciscan's mergers with Harrison and The Doctors Clinic. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. The two of us are committed to working together as your representatives to come up with solutions so you and your family have access to the best health care at the lowest possible cost.
It is an honor to serve you.