PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Don’t look to the state legislature to solve the Highmark — UPMC dispute, say the state Senate’s top Republican and chair of its Insurance Committee.
“Does that mean that a legislative solution to this problem is dead?” KDKA political editor Jon Delano asked PA Sen. Don White, chair of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.
“I think it is unlikely,” said White.
In a terse letter to Highmark CEO Bill Winkenwerder, White and PA Sen. Joe Scarnati, president pro tempore, told Highmark to “end its confusing ad campaign along with its manufactured grass roots campaign calling for unprecedented legislative action.”
Beginning January 1, UPMC facilities will be open at lower network rates to those insured by Aetna, Cigna, Health America, United Healthcare, and UPMC Health Plan — but not Highmark customers.
Delano: “Does that seem right?”
White: “I don’t know if it seems right, Jon, but I’ll say this. That’s what they agreed to less than two years ago.”
White, whose committee can block bills opening up UPMC facilities to Highmark customers, says Highmark agreed to seek “no further government intervention” the last time around.
So forget a legislative fix.
“Since when, anywhere in this country, do you force one company to do business with another company who doesn’t want to do business with you,” noted White.
The senator does want three UPMC facilities funded with tax dollars to remain accessible to all — Children’s Hospital, the Hillman Cancer Institute, and Western Psychiatric Hospital.
But White says Highmark should promote its own Allegheny Health Network.
“They have a good, first class hospital system that is an alternative to UPMC, and they don’t talk about that. They spend their time bashing UPMC.”
Other legislators say the legislative battle is just beginning and Governor Corbett has not yet weighed in.
But time is running out.
Listen to Jay Costa’s interview with NewsRadio 1020 KDKA: