By Jon Delano

HARRISBURG (KDKA) — After a dozen lawyers for the Attorney General, UPMC, and Highmark presented testimony in Harrisburg earlier this week, the clock is ticking for Highmark Blue Cross-Blue Shield customers.

At the end of the month, they will be denied lower-cost in-network use of UPMC’s doctors and facilities if Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson rules the June 30 expiration date cannot be modified or extended.

Following the hearing in Harrisburg, the parties filed pages of proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law for the judge to consider.

He urged them to keep their written materials to ten pages or less so he could make a decision quickly, but none of the lawyers did that.

At issue for the judge is a very simple but critical question.

Can the consent decree allowing Highmark customers access to UPMC be modified under a modification clause in the agreement to extend the June 30 expiration date of that arrangement?

“UPMC clearly had no understanding or agreement with the Attorney General, with the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, with the Department of Health that the modification provision would allow for any extension of the June 30, 2019, termination date,” said Paul Wood, UPMC spokesperson, on Tuesday.

While UPMC argued that only minor items can be modified, Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Highmark argued that all provisions of the agreement were open to modification in the public interest, including the expiration date.

“Attorney General Shapiro and his team will continue for all-encompassing affordable access to health care for western Pennsylvanians, and no matter what happens this week we’re not going away,” said Joe Grace, the AG’s spokesperson, on Monday.

A decision is expected by Judge Simpson on Friday.