Corbett presses UPMC, Highmark in meeting

He’s ‘‍very pleased’ with talks

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HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett said he asked directors of UPMC and Highmark at a Capitol meeting Tuesday to work together to alleviate uncertainty for patients following the scheduled expiration of a contract later this year.

Mr. Corbett said he was “very pleased” after meeting for a little less than one hour with members of the boards of directors of the Pittsburgh region’s largest hospital system, UPMC, and its dominant insurer, Highmark. UPMC’s board chairman, G. Nicholas Beckwith III, and Highmark’s board chairman, J. Robert Baum, were among those attending, he said.

The meeting followed discussions last week in Pittsburgh between Corbett administration officials and Highmark and UPMC management.

“We look forward to more discussions going on with the staff,” Mr. Corbett said later Tuesday. “We were letting the boards know where we were, and I gave them where I am and some expectations that I have: that they work together, that they work together in good faith.”

After two years ago brokering an extension of a contract that offers UPMC health care services at in-network rates to patients with Highmark insurance, Mr. Corbett last week announced he had asked Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine and Department of Health Secretary Michael Wolf to meet with senior management of UPMC and Highmark.

Mr. Corbett said Tuesday that the talks are not about extending the contract between UPMC and Highmark, but rather working out what patients can expect. His office has said its expectations include ensuring patient access to emergency rooms and to hospitals close to their homes.

“We’re not talking about extending,” Mr. Corbett said. “We’re talking about clarity for the consumers, because there’s a great deal of angst out there.”

The governor said he had asked UPMC and Highmark to keep the content of the discussions private. Representatives of both companies declined to comment.

The state attorney general’s office also is participating in the talks. The office has prepared a legal complaint against UPMC — addressing issues of consumer protection and the health system’s legal obligations as a nonprofit charity — that it could file if the discussions do not resolve key issues, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

READ about the end of UPMC contract with unionized cleaning firm.

Karen Langley: or 717-787-2141 or on Twitter @karen_langley.

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