Saturday, September 3, 2011

This Thursday, your voice matters

My Town Hall meeting at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall ballroom is this Thursday, and I hope that you can join me for a what will be both a lively and educational event, as well as a watershed moment in the story of UPMC vs. Highmark.

On August 25, the House Insurance Committee hosted a hearing in the Allegheny County Courthouse located in Downtown Pittsburgh, to gather testimony from UPMC, Highmark, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, the Pittsburgh Business Group on Health, the Allegheny County Bar Association, and Service Manufacturing and Commercial Business Council. 

UPMC CEO and President Jeffrey Romoff and Highmark CEO and President Dr. Kenneth Melani made rare personal appearances and provided testimony that reiterated their respective positions. To summarize: UPMC will not negotiate or enter into a new provider contract with Highmark if it acquires West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS), and Highmark fully intends to acquire WPAHS.

With this as our current context, I am preparing for the Town Hall meeting with a few clear positions in mind:
1) At this time I support the Highmark-WPAHS merger, which as it has been described to date, will breathe new life into the financially distressed WPAHS and save thousands of jobs in Allegheny County.
2) I believe that morally, ethically, and legally in order to fulfill their obligations as charitable organizations under PA Act 55 of 1997, UPMC and Highmark should find common ground and reach a new provider contract that increases healthcare access and reduces healthcare costs for the residents and employers of our region.
3) Thinking long term, UPMC vs. Highmark is the symptom of failing health care and health insurance markets in Western Pennsylvania. Therefore, statutory remedies are justifiable and necessary in order correct the market. Among these remedies are reforms in the areas of the Pennsylvania charitable organization law, Certificate of Need (CON), and limiting health insurance premium increases.
My colleagues in the Pennsylvania General Assembly are clearly prepared to act decisively, and are considering the various approaches that might be taken to enact a solution if UPMC and Highmark cannot reach one voluntarily. When the citizens of Allegheny County have their say on Thursday, Harrisburg will be listening and assured that there is a groundswell of support from Western Pennsylvania residents. This Thursday your voice will make all the difference.


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