Altoona system to pursue UPMC

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The Altoona Regional Health System is planning "to pursue more detailed discussions" about a possible affiliation with UPMC.

In a press release Wednesday, Altoona Regional board members said that for the past year they have been "exploring an affiliation with a larger health system that would offer opportunities to enhance and expand the exceptional care the health system provides while addressing the significant challenges and financial pressures in health care today."

Jerry Murray, president and CEO of Altoona Regional, added that "While no final decisions have been made, this is the next logical step in the affiliation process." UPMC spokesman Paul Wood, in his own statement, said that "UPMC has had a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Altoona Regional Hospital and looks forward to further discussions."

UPMC and insurer Highmark have been aggressively buying health systems and physician practices as Highmark tries to build a regional integrated health care delivery system to compete with UPMC. Both had been actively looking at forming a partnership with the Altoona health system, as had the Geisinger Health System.

Following the Altoona announcement, Highmark spokesman Michael Weinstein released a statement saying, "We are committed to continuing to work cooperatively with Altoona Regional Health System, as we have done for decades, to ensure that Highmark members in the Altoona region continue to have access to high-quality medical services provided by the health system. And we will explore every action necessary to ensure continued access for our members in the future."

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


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