Eau Claire cancer patient fights to end ‘White Bagging’ in Wisconsin

Published: Oct. 29, 2021 at 7:52 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - An Eau Claire woman battling breast cancer has taken her fight to another cause, ending “White Bagging” in Wisconsin.

Koreen Holmes was diagnosed with the disease in January while 35 weeks pregnant. She began treatment at the Prevea Cancer Center at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital shortly after giving birth.

“They became family and I would say the cancer team at Prevea, they care deeply about their patients,” Koreen Holmes said.

In July, she received news from her insurance company the drugs she gets had to come from a specialty pharmacy it owns.

This is called “white bagging.” It’s when insurance companies dictate drugs come from a specific pharmacy instead the hospital’s.

Prevea Cancer Center Director of Oncology Angela Quick said the practice affects people with several chronic conditions including cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and more.

This mean HSHS Sacred Heart couldn’t control the drugs’ chain of custody by administering them through its own pharmacy.

The hospital said since it can’t control how the drugs arrive, it won’t administer “white bagged” drugs because it’s too dangerous.

This left Koreen Holmes with a choice. Should could pay out of pocket for her treatment or go somewhere else.

“These people became my family,” she said. “And to know that I would have to up and leave them and try and find somebody else in the middle of my diagnosis, they would have to relearn everything that I have and what I’m going through, that’s scary.”

Koreen Holmes’ husband, Nathan, said they were willing to go bankrupt to keep her at Prevea.

“That minute that you find out that your care is no longer covered, you look at what that could cost you and it literally will break you, like it mentally, emotionally, all of it,” Nathan Holmes said. “It’s like you go to a place where, ‘Alright, screw it,’ for lack of better terms, ‘We’re going to do what we’ve got to do.’ And that’s what it felt like.”

Koreen Holmes did eventually secure a one-time 90-day extension from her insurance company covering her “non-white bagged” treatments at Prevea. She expects to finish treatment before the extension expires.

Her fight is not complete. To battle back against “white bagging,” she lent her name to “Koreen’s Law.” The bill in the Wisconsin Legislature would ban the practice.

“I hope that it helps other people and I’m praying that this gets passed because I would hate to see that this continues,” Koreen Holmes said. “And this comes down to life or death. This isn’t just a casual thing.”

She said she’s currently cancer free. Her current treatments hope to prevent recurrence.

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