What they are saying ... about the Highmark-West Penn break-up

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Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said the Highmark-West Penn partnership was a positive development for the local health care industry.

"I think competition is a good thing, and competition benefits the consumer," he said. He said he'd hate to see the city with only one provider, "that being UPMC."

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald called the announcement "disquieting to the community. We hope that they can come back together and continue to work toward their partnership. I think a viable West Penn Allegheny Health System is vital to this community. UPMC is certainly a great provider, but people in this community need more than one choice. So we're hopeful that they can work together."

He plans to meet with both sides in the next two weeks.

State Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, vice chairwoman of the senate's Banking and Insurance Committee, said the move reminds her of her biggest fear. "We don't hate Highmark and we don't hate UPMC. We just don't want them controlling our health care market."

Neal Bisno, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, which represents 2,000 nurses and other health care workers in the West Penn Allegheny Health System said, "We are deeply alarmed and concerned about the conflict that has developed between West Penn Allegheny Health System and Highmark.

"We urge both parties to come back to the table and keep the best interests of Western Pennsylvania patients and WPAHS employees firmly in focus."

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said he had been assured repeatedly by both sides that the deal would move forward, and expressed hope that Highmark and West Penn Allegheny could work through their differences to put the agreement back on track.

"It creates a significant concern about the future of the health care delivery systems here in Western Pennsylvania. By not having two integrated delivery systems, we run the risk of issues with cost and quality. Competition helps us with both."

State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, described the dispute as "extremely disappointing," pointing to the 12,000 jobs at WPAHS that could be endangered by the impasse.

"This deal as originally portrayed to this community was something that was going to be of great benefit -- preserving and enhancing an alternative health care system. I'm hopeful that cooler heads will prevail and that this arrangement can be rejuvenated."

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