By Amy Wadas


PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Highmark subscribers will be breathing a sigh of relief when the June 30 consent decree deadline comes and they can still access UPMC’s Hillman Cancer Center at in-network rates.

“Yesterday’s announcement followed by today’s announcement that Children’s Hospital, Western Psych, and the Hillman Cancer Center will all be in-network — no matter what card you have — is another step in the right direction,” said Mayor Bill Peduto.

Yesterday, UPMC announced it will not require some Highmark patients to pay in advance for services once the consent decrees between both providers expire. UPMC originally wanted Highmark’s Medicare Advantage members to pay for treatments up front after the deadline.

So why the change of heart?

“We listened and we heard these Highmark subscribers. And after all, they are UPMC patients that happen to have Highmark insurance,” said UPMC spokesperson Paul Wood.

As for its specialty hospitals?

“We’ve heard a lot from Highmark’s subscribers and they’ve talked about their misdiagnoses that they’ve received. They’ve talked about how Hillman has saved their life, they’ve talked about if they’re forced to go anywhere else they might die,” said Wood.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro responded in part stating:

I’m glad UPMC has finally made these welcome concessions to open vital taxpayer-funded institutions to all Western Pennsylvanians, as my Office has repeatedly asked them to do for more than two years. Instead of agreeing previously, UPMC chose to wait until the 11th hour — just before we are scheduled to meet in court on Monday — to finally commit to providing the care that its doctors and nurses do so ably at these specialty hospitals to all patients.

In response to that, Wood said, “This has nothing to do with the attorney general. That hearing next week has to do with a very narrow question that the Supreme Court sent back down to the Commonwealth Court to answer: What did the parties understood [sic] the term of the consent decree to be, in terms of what is its expiration date and can that be modified.”

Highmark also responded to the news by saying in part:

“We need to secure contract language and agreements so that their practices align with their commitments. UPMC, Highmark and the Pennsylvania Attorney General – who has jurisdiction over all charitable, nonprofit organizations – are in litigation, and everything needs to be reviewed by the Attorney General.”

Next week’s hearing is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Harrisburg.