Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Town Hall Meeting Recap, Pressure Points, Next Steps

Thank you to the 350 + community leaders and citizens who attended the UPMC and Highmark: Purely Public Charities? Town Hall meeting last Thursday. Media coverage by the PG, Trib, and WTAE was certainly appreciated, although lacking and inaccurate in some respects. In the end they all got the message:
Mr. Ferlo said he brought the parties together before members of the public, elected officials and labor leaders so they could discuss what was at stake. Representatives of each side sat at tables flanking the podium, sometimes shaking their heads while the other side addressed the audience... 
Mr. Ferlo said the session was the beginning of what he hopes will be greater input and influence from the community. He said there are ways to impact the situation, including getting the state attorney general and insurance commissioner involved. There also might be cause for legislation. (PG - Dan Majors) 
"What's been missing is the people in this room," said state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, who sponsored the town hall meeting on Thursday night at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland. "I think it will be a very ugly divorce unless we are involved." (Trib - Tony LaRussa)
As I outlined at the Town Hall, we need to build a campaign of actions over the next few months and they should include all pressure points:

  1. Corporate campaign exposing current Board membership - most people may not be aware that 1/3 of UPMC Board is selected by Pitt and includes Chancellor Nordenburg and they have all been silent;
  2. Pressure and actions aimed at PA Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine and PA Attorney General Linda Kelly relating to Act 55 and Act 94;
  3. Pressure and actions aimed at the PA House and Senate (Sen. Fontana's "tax them" proposal, etc...). Also, the Legislature has the power to re-write the 5 provisions of Act 55 to call into question UPMC's violations and leave less room for the Pa Supreme Court to wiggle;
  4. Pressure on the Allegheny County Medical Society to start defending physicians who are being intimidated into silence due to restrictive contract provisions with UPMC;
  5. Continued public outreach and post card campaigns. Post cards were distributed at the Town Hall, which I will share through my website and this blog in the coming days;
  6. Pressure and due diligence regarding civil rights and anti-trust actions, given U.S. Justice Dept. recent decision to not get involved.
To be clear, I will be supporting Highmark's acquistion of the WPAHS and work to re-establish an ER and other critcal services at West Penn Hospital. Highmark-WPAHS need to develop an Integrated Finance and Delivery System (IFDS) similar to the UPMC model. All this remains in question until Highmark submits a formal acquisition filing with the Commonwealth (to the PA Insurance Department, specifically) and takes significant actions to consumate their deal which will cost Highmark an estimated $2 Billion. 

Throughout the process, I will continue to be advocate for single payer sustainable solutions and fight cuts in Social Security and Medicare (I believe Obama will lead effort to initiate these cuts).


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