Reporting Jon Delano
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s not campaign season, but you might think so with the back-and-forth television ads from UPMC and Highmark.
UPMC Ad: “I’m not having my babies anywhere but Magee. Highmark said they need at least 41,000 patient admissions to leave UPMC and community hospitals.”
Highmark Ad: “It’s UPMC, not Highmark that decided to deny access to many western Pennsylvania families starting in 2015.”
What’s going on here?
With in-network, meaning lower priced, access to UPMC facilities ending for Highmark customers at the end of next year, “we want to insure that people make an informed decision so they’re not surprised by any bait and switch marketing tactics that Highmark might employ,” says UPMC spokesman Paul Wood.
“There’s a lot of misinformation in the marketplace from UPMC, and our ads are aimed at dispelling that information,” responds Aaron Billger, spokesman for Highmark.
Both claim the other’s ads are deceptive.
UPMC Ad: “When I signed up for this insurance, I was told I could go to UPMC, and now you’re trying to push me somewhere else.”
“Make sure you select a plan that gives you access to the hospitals you want to go to,” adds Wood.
He says — before people sign up for insurance — know that Highmark cannot provide lower-priced access to UPMC because Highmark now owns its own hospital system and will push 41,000 patients there.
Highmark ad: “UPMC is running a TV ad that, quite honestly, is trying to deceive you.”
“The 41,000 number that’s being touted by UPMC is really a diversionary tactic,” says Billger, “a diversionary tactic to really address the core issue and that is — the community is looking for choice and access in health care.”
Billger says it’s UPMC that refuses to sign a contract allowing Highmark customers a choice.
Highmark ad: “You should be allowed to choose your own health care insurer and your own health care provider. UPMC should not decide for you.”
“When it comes time to select your insurer during the next open enrollment, you have a choice,” responds Wood. “And you should choose that health care as if your life depended on it.”
Given the issues at stake here, don’t expect these kinds of ads to end anytime soon.