Wisconsin Senate committee hears testimony on ‘Koreen’s Law’ Thursday

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 9:08 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WEAU) - An Eau Claire woman shared her story Thursday with state lawmakers, telling them how an insurance practice she hopes to ban created an extra burden while she was battling breast cancer.

Koreen Holmes was in the midst of treatments in 2021 at the Prevea Cancer Center at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital when she had to take on another fight, her insurance company.

Her insurance was requiring her cancer drugs come from a specialty pharmacy instead of the hospital’s. This is called white bagging.

Joanne Alig with the Wisconsin Hospital Association said the practice creates safety concerns for doctors.

“When the third-party pharmacy ships it to the hospital, often the hospital doesn’t know if it’s been say left on a loading dock somewhere, if it’s been in the freezing temperature,” she said.

She said shipping issues can also lead to treatment delays.

These are some of the reasons Prevea Health chose not to administer white-bagged meds.

For Koreen Holmes and her husband Nate, it turned a cancer battle into an even more stressful ordeal.

“It was months of going back and forth with my cancer center and the insurance company trying to figure out like I am going to get denied,” Koreen Holmes said. “Am I going to get to continue my treatment?”

“Just the loss of time, the resources devoted, everything that goes into the repercussions and the ripple effect of it, that was the part for us that was like, wow,” Nate Holmes said.

Fortunately, Koreen did get a 90-day exemption from her insurance company. This allowed her to finish her treatment at Prevea without using white-bagged drugs.

Now cancer free, she’s fighting to end the practice in Wisconsin, lending her name to a bill to ban it known as “Koreen’s Law.”

“Although it’s just us here, we’re speaking on behalf of the people that don’t have a voice,” Nate Holmes said.

While Koreen and Nate Holmes spent Thursday urging lawmakers serving on the state Senate Committee on Insurance, Licensing and Forestry to support the legislation. Others testified against the bill.

Tim Lundquist with the Wisconsin Association of Health Plans fears “Koreen’s Law” would raise health care costs and insurance premiums.

“The impact of this proposed legislation does not start and end with health insurers,” he said. “Employers and employees ultimately bear the high cost of clinician-administered drugs through higher health insurance premiums and higher out-of-pocket costs.”

Alig said white bagging can actually increase costs since it adds steps in transporting and administering drugs. It can also cause potential delays in treatment.

The committee did not vote on the legislation Thursday.

In addition to cancer patients, Alig said white bagging typically happens more medications treating conditions such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis

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