Longer contract extension sought

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Two Western Pennsylvania senators announced Thursday that they have drafted legislation aimed at protecting consumers if UPMC and Highmark are unable to resolve their dispute.

The measure would amend state law to give the state insurance commissioner greater authority to extend the terms of the existing contract between Highmark and UPMC, which is set to expire at the end of June.

Currently, the contract termination could be suspended for up to six months by the state Department of Insurance so that patients continued to have access to health care services.

Under the bill proposed by Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, and Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, the time period would be extended to 36 months.

"We, as legislators, cannot simply stand on the sidelines and watch consumers get pushed off a cliff," said Mr. White, whose committee held three hearings this fall on the dispute. "Since neither side seems willing to work towards reaching an agreement, it becomes more and more apparent that legislative action will be necessary."

-- Laura Olson


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