The Morning File: 'Whiny Woman' vs. the big, bad health system

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We always enjoy watching the local television commercials -- the bald lawyer who points at us, the blonde bombshell who sells cars, the folksy farmer who's living the good life after leasing his property for gas drilling.

There's a new one that caught our eye while watching the Pirates' victories of late.

It features a whiny, middle-aged woman who feels victimized on the phone while trying to speak up for the most powerful institution in Western Pennsylvania (and, no, it's not the Steelers -- it's an entity with lots of hospitals and additional property in Oakland and about 999 other places).

Whiny Woman tells an unheard health insurance representative that her doc wants her to use UPMC Passavant for a procedure, but the representative keeps "pushing" her, in her words, toward a non-UPMC facility.

She's aghast. She's increasingly frustrated as the commercial continues.

We can't see the conclusion, thank goodness, but she gives the impression of a person who would be unsafe around guns by the end, she's now feeling so much hatred toward her manipulative, bullying non-UPMC insurer.

A voiceover tells us this is all about a future in which Highmark will try to steer patients toward its affiliated West Penn Allegheny Health System facilities.

Excuse our lack of sympathy, UPMC, but we're just not sure that playing the poor, put-upon underdog suddenly suits you.

It's a sad day when we can no longer count on the kind of arrogance you've used to ride to the top of the Pittsburgh power structure.

You may have sometimes seemed ruthless or hypocritical as a "nonprofit" on your path to success, but you looked good swaggering in the black hat while also maintaining a focus on some notable achievement.

This public "How can you do this to me?" defensiveness resembles a schoolyard bully who goes running to the principal's office the first time someone hits him back.

It's not so different from UPMC's strong push-back against the Ravenstahl administration for daring to question the legitimacy of its nonprofit status, while it holds onto more property than any other entity in Western Pennsylvania.

We half-expect the next UPMC advertisement to be one in which its CEO, Jeffrey Romoff, is on the phone feeling beleaguered with an unseen, unheard representative of the mayor's office:

"Yes, I'm calling because of this notice of taxes that are due. I just can't believe ...

"What? Yes, I know I make $6 million a year. What's that got to do with anything? You people keep pushing us around and ...

"But we are the primary funder of the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program. We don't seem to get any credit for ... What? Well, I'm sorry your daughter wants to go to college out of state and won't qualify for help. Look, I don't make the rules -- I just put up the money. ...

"How much property do we have? A lot, I suppose. What business of that is yours, considering all of the good we do in the community? ... You don't seem to understand, we're a nonprofit. ... I said nonprofit. ...

"Why are you harassing us? You keep talking about these taxes when we've never had to pay them before. We tried giving you some money in lieu of taxes, and now you say that's not good enough? I'm sorry, but I feel like I'm being taken advantage of here. ...

"You keep coming back to this $6 million salary issue, when I don't understand the connection. A man's got to make a living. How much money do you make? ... Oh, I see -- that's not very much. No wonder you're upset, but it's hardly fair to take it out on me. ...

"Look, why don't you go after Highmark about something like this? I'm sure they're up to no good. My lawyers could even help you with some details. ...

"No? Well, this is getting us nowhere obviously. It all must have something to do with trying to divert attention from your mayor being under investigation. I just want you to know I'm going to write a letter to the editor about how poorly I've been treated. But first, I'm just going to go into my executive washroom and have a good cry. I hope you're happy."


Gary Rotstein: or 412-263-1255. First Published July 29, 2013 4:00 AM


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