Is patient safety a casualty of the Highmark, UPMC dispute?

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I read with sadness the article about UPMC "firing" patients who are now covered under a new Highmark insurance plan, Community Blue ("Highmark 'Select' Plan Rejected by UPMC," March 5). What was striking about the piece is that UPMC will not even allow Community Blue patients the option of paying cash in order to continue care with a doctor they have known and trusted for years. In a March 8 follow-up article ("Medical Ethics Focus of Insurance Dispute"), an interesting contrast is drawn.

Every other medical provider and insurer consulted indicated that they never turn away self-paying patients nor do they deny out-of-network access to their physicians. So what is the basis and motive of UPMC's decision to shut out Community Blue patients?

For two giant corporations who are in the business of providing medical services, shouldn't the focus be on patient care and patient safety? I wonder how many cancer patients who are in the midst of a clinical trial with their UPMC doctor will find themselves in a situation where their doctor is not permitted to continue to treat them. Where do they go for continuation of their individualized treatment? How many patients with chronic medical conditions will be shut out from seeing their doctor of 10 or 20 years? Where is the outrage for the patients abandoned by their doctors? Where is the uprising of dedicated physicians who do feel a moral and ethical obligation to continue to treat their patients regardless of the type of insurance they have?

Patient safety and providing quality medical care should be paramount concerns to UPMC and Highmark. Knowingly and callously disrupting the continuity of care between a patient and her doctor for the upper hand in an ongoing dispute is yet another shameful example of putting profits above patients.

CranberryThe writer is a medical malpractice lawyer.



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