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County Controller Seeks Public Comment on UPMC, Highmark Split

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
January 28, 2019
Posted in: Announcements

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner will hold a public meeting at Carnegie Library of McKeesport to find out how residents are being affected by the upcoming split between UPMC Health System and Highmark.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 4 at the library, 1507 Library Ave.

Advance registration is suggested by calling (412) 672-0625.

A spokesman for Wagner said people who cannot attend are invited to submit their stories via the county controller's website.

UPMC has been feuding with Highmark for years. UPMC operates its own health insurance plan in competition with Highmark's Blue Cross and Blue Shield programs, while Highmark is the parent company of the Allegheny Health Network, which includes doctors and hospitals that compete with UPMC's.

Many Highmark customers already lost in-network access to UPMC facilities at the end of 2014.

But under a consent decree negotiated by state officials in 2014, some existing Highmark insurance customers --- including those enrolled in Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, and the state's children's health insurance program, or CHIP --- were allowed to continue using UPMC hospitals and doctors.

That consent decree expires June 30, and the remaining Highmark customers will no longer be able to receive in-network care from most UPMC doctors and UPMC facilities, such as UPMC McKeesport, except in emergencies.

More than 160,000 people in the Pittsburgh area have Medicare Advantage plans, according to published reports.

In a prepared statement, Wagner said that "directly or indirectly, all of our region’s residents are being affected by the unjust exclusion of many patients from our region’s main healthcare providers."

Wagner is urging residents to "speak out at this upcoming community meeting about your views on the actions of our regional healthcare giants, and how you and your family have been affected."

State and local officials, as well as representatives of both Highmark and UPMC, also have been invited to attend, the spokesman said.

Originally published January 28, 2019.

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