As state legislators get ready to reconvene in Harrisburg, executives for Highmark's Allegheny Health Network have a message for them:
"The one thing we want is action," said Judy Zedreck, interim president at Allegheny General Hospital. "We want to see the needle move."
Ms. Zedreck and other AHN top executives Thursday reiterated their commitment "to contract with any insurance carrier that wants to have a contract with us, including UPMC Health Plan," at a press briefing at Allegheny General.
"We believe that no single health care system should be able to determine who is allowed to have affordable, in-network access to it," added John Dempster, president of Jefferson Regional Hospital in Jefferson Hills.
The obvious reference was to UPMC health system's insistence that it will not renew or extend its contract with Allegheny Health Network parent Highmark after 2014 now that the Pittsburgh insurer has set up a competing provider network. UPMC does contract with other insurers and markets its own UPMC Health Plan.
Because of Highmark's dominance of the local health insurance market and UPMC's dominance on the provider side, "Such a contract would instantly extinguish insurance competition and provider competition, and restore the double-digit premium increases which have plagued this community, kept wages down and stalled job growth," said UPMC spokesman Paul Wood.
Given UPMC's continued insistence there will be no contract, AHN is directing more of its lobbying efforts toward Harrisburg. "We need somebody to step forward and provide clarity to the situation," said Duke Rupert, president of West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield.
While Reps. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, and Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, have sent a memo to fellow House members about requiring hospitals such as UPMC's to contract with any willing insurer, it remains to be seen what bill is written and what gets passed when the General Assembly returns next week.
"The hospitals of this region are true community assets and as such should be accessible by the entire community," Mr. Rupert said. "As leaders of the Allegheny Health Network, we are calling for open, affordable access to all charitable health care organizations."
But Mr. Wood countered, "Any sort of 'any willing' legislative proposal is anything but willing -- it's coercion." He added that it "would impose yet another layer of state government intervention and price control in the health care marketplace.
"Requiring everybody to contract with everybody is the exact opposite of the choice that every employer and every consumer wants in order to make health care affordable in our region."
Steve Twedt: email@example.com or 412-263-1963.