What is our opinion of ThedaCare’s proposed venture with the Neuroscience Group and the Hand to Shoulder Center of Wisconsin? To put it mildly, we are adamantly opposed. Why? Simply put, because, in our opinion, the new partnership will be able to charge higher prices for the same services currently provided in their existing facilities.
A letter we received from a retired pastor from the Weyauwega area in 2018 may help to explain. This gentleman had been receiving outpatient chemotherapy at the Fox Valley Hematology and Oncology clinic that closed in May 2018. This virtually new $28 million building still remains vacant on Appleton’s northeast side. The Weyauwega resident had been paying less than $300 monthly (out of pocket after Medicare’s payment) for chemotherapy treatment at FVHO. Following ThedaCare’s “acquisition” of FVHO in May 2018 the pastor’s out of pocket monthly expense ballooned to more than $900. Furthermore, the amount paid by Medicare (taxpayers) more than doubled to $22,000.
Why? Because hospitals with inpatient beds can bill Medicare for more than ambulatory or outpatient organizations for certain procedures. As described in ThedaCare’s November 6 announcement, the proposed ThedaCare facility will have about 25 inpatient beds. Despite the fact that these beds are completely unnecessary in a community that already has far more inpatient beds than needed, they would allow ThedaCare, Neuroscience, and Hand to Shoulder to bill at least 30% more for services than what is currently allowed at the existing outpatient facilities of these organizations. Once again, the community that ThedaCare purports to “serve” will likely be hit with price and insurance premium hikes as the new partnership will be able to charge more without any proof of quality improvements.
Note that Medicare prohibits hospitals from billing different customers different amounts; so, under existing contracts, other payers (local governments, school districts, businesses and individuals) will be paying significantly more as well.
ThedaCare, Neuroscience and Hand to Shoulder all currently have ambulatory surgery facilities. All of the procedures likely to be done at the new facilities have been, presumably, safely and effectively performed at existing facilities. There is no need for this enormous expenditure of $144 million—and that’s just the building. That amount doesn’t include the amounts required to staff, operate, and maintain it.
Why would the ThedaCare board of trustees support such a project? We don’t know because they refuse to talk to us. Why would Mayor Hanna and other public figures, such as Lawrence University President Mark Burstein, voice support for this ThedaCare led project? It is our opinion that either they lack the knowledge of these potential outcomes or they endorse an increasingly malignant organization (ThedaCare) that crushes competitors and continues to increase the financial burdens that the local governments, school districts, businesses, and families of our community must shoulder.