The Appleton Post Crescent has just published a story about problems experienced by oncology patients at ThedaCare following their absorption of Fox Valley Hematology and Oncology last summer. We encourage all of our subscribers to read the fine reporting by Maureen Wallenfang. Click here to read Maureen's story.
It is reasonable to expect that any provider of service will, on occasion, fall short of customer expectations. In this case, however, we recognize one of the issues that Fox Valley Health Care forecast might be a result of the acquisition: significantly higher prices. One patient (who contacted us and we referred to Ms. Wallenfang) reported that his out-of-pocket cost for chemotherapy TRIPLED from under $300 per treatment to over $900 per treatment. Higher prices are almost always the result of reduced competition. Patients are stuck with the result.
Then there is the issue of transparency. ThedaCare's representative invoked privacy regulations when questioned about communications between dissatisfied patients and the health system. Yes, there are important regulations that prevent the release of information without the consent of the patient. These are important rules designed to protect patients. Yet the health system has an obligation to our community to identify and correct problems such as those outlined in the P-C story and do so in a transparent manner without compromising confidential patient information. Ms. Wallenfang's reporting does not give us the impression that the health system is comfortable talking about problems reported by patients and reassuring the community that those problems are being addressed.
This problem is not unique to ThedaCare. We have experienced similar issues when attempting to interact with Ascension. In our opinion the attitude seems to be don't question us. We know best.
This story should remind us that these organizations are, essentially, owned by the Fox Valley community. We have provided them with tax exemptions for property and profit. We have provided them with labor resources and our patronage. We have also provided them low cost, publicly sponsored debt (tax exempt bonds) and significant volunteer support. Yet when patients and advocates like Fox Valley Health Care pose difficult questions the organizations seem to us to act as though they are privately held and the public is not entitled to clear responses. It is important that we remember that they are not private organizations. There are no shareholders but are incorporated in accordance with state regulations for non-stock corporations. They exist only because we have supported them over many, many years.
Fox Valley Health Care is going to continue to ask those difficult questions. If you want to help us attend our meeting on March 11, 2019 at 7pm in meeting room A at the Appleton Public Library.