Corbett asks for Highmark-UPMC dispute clarification

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Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday said state health and insurance officials have reached out to Highmark and UPMC, requiring them to clarify consumer confusion.

In a released statement, the governor said recent advertising by the two health titans, as well as news reports, "are causing confusion and great concern among consumers who use Highmark insurance products and UPMC hospitals and providers."

UPMC has stated that it will not renew its contract with Highmark when it expires in January 2015 now that Highmark is entering the provider market by establishing the Allegheny Health Network to compete with UPMC.

In March, UPMC notified those enrolled in Highmark's lower-cost Community Blue coverage plan that they would no longer be seen by UPMC physicians -- even if they were willing to pay out-of-network rates. The governor said he has directed state health and insurance officials to require UPMC and Highmark "to clarify any consumer confusion surrounding Highmark's Community Blue product and services at UPMC."

Mr. Corbett's statement also said he has directed those officials to create an interagency task force to monitor the two entities' ongoing communications.

While not directly taking a side in the ongoing dispute, the governor stated that "as non-profit entities with an obligation to their community, I expect that Highmark and UPMC will maintain a focus on their higher social mission -- to responsibly serve the healthcare needs of thousands of western Pennsylvanians."

On Wednesday, UPMC spokesman Paul Wood said that the health system "looks forward to working with the governor's joint task force to ensure that consumers are properly informed and protected" as the region undergoes what the governor described as a "transition to the new healthcare landscape developing in Western Pennsylvania."

Highmark spokesman Aaron Billger, meanwhile, said "we agree with the governor's goal of continued access to quality and affordable health care for consumers in a competitive and healthy marketplace," adding that "Highmark stands ready to negotiate a contract with UPMC and to do what's best and right for the people of this region."

state - businessnews - health

Steve Twedt: stwedt@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1963.


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