According to data from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), hospital care in Kitsap County is 40% more expensive than in the surrounding communities. In documents filed as part of the lawsuit, a former physician president at TDC summed up the affiliation with CHI best: “You can now get your outpatient care in a complex, relatively unsafe, and vastly more expensive location.”
Nonprofit hospitals, in general, are facing challenging times. And that challenge is going to reverberate through our county, whether that means a major facility on a new construction timeline or further corporate creativity to reduce health care costs.
Confucius said, “the man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” It is time to lay the groundwork for Kitsap residents to formally engage in meaningful dialogue with leaders of our local hospital corporation, whether operated by CHI Franciscan, Dignity Health, or a still-to-be-named corporate entity.
May 1st, the Washington State Department of Health will rule on the Certificate of Need (CON); whether or not CHI closes hospital operations in Bremerton and moves all services to Silverdale. CHI will invest $680 million to expand campus size and build a state-of-the-art facility; they will save $9 million annually in improved efficiency. It will take just 75.5 years to recoup the cost.
As an independent physician in private practice, I care a great deal about our people, our patients, and healthcare delivery in Kitsap County. The fact hospital consolidations do not economically benefit patients is backed by a mountain of scientific evidence. While those in charge may decide merging is ultimately the best course of action, it will be imperative we stand up as a unified community and hold CHI accountable for ensuring the cost savings they have promised materialize.
There is a growing body of evidence that hospital mergers lead to higher prices for consumers, employers, insurance, and government overall. It is imperative to educate patients and lawmakers as to how the consolidation of hospitals and medical practices raise costs, decrease access, eliminate jobs, and ultimately reduce care quality as a result. Lawmakers should focus on this “first pillar” of cost control as they go back to the drawing board.