Reporting Jon Delano
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They could not be more different – 57-year-old liberal Democrat Dan Frankel from Squirrel Hill and 29-year-old conservative Republican Jim Christiana of Beaver.
But one issue brings this unlikely pair together — access to UMPC doctors and facilities by Highmark customers.
“When you look at potentially up to two million folks not having access to one of the best health care systems in the state, even in the country, it’s a pretty serious topic,” Christiana told KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano, “and Dan and I are working hard to have a longtime solution to that problem.”
If the legislature doesn’t act by the end of 2014, Highmark customers will no longer be able to use UPMC at cheaper in-network rates even though UPMC is “financed by our tax dollars, by our insurance premiums, our charitable donations, and in fact by government grants,” Frankel states.
Under the Frankel-Christiana bill, any integrated health care system that offered both medical and hospital services and an insurance plan would be required to provide access to any insurance plan that wanted to be part of that hospital network.
In short, UPMC facilities would be open to Highmark customers — and the Allegheny Health Network — owned by Highmark — would be open to UPMC Health Plan insured.
“These integrated delivery networks want to control how health care is financed — and part of that is to limit access,” Frankel says.
And even a pro-business conservative says that’s wrong.
“This concept of leveraging your doctors and your hospitals to lock out certain insurance companies, to play a high stakes poker game, is unacceptable,” adds Christiana.
But UPMC spokesperson Paul Wood says the bill won’t attract legislative support, including from Democrats.
“It does kind of run counter to the goals of what Obamacare is trying to do,” noted Wood, “and I don’t think Republicans are going to be very interested in getting behind it because it runs counter to government intervention.”