State attorney general won't object to UPMC-Altoona hospital merger

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Attorney General Kathleen Kane has issued a statement saying she "will not formally object" to the Altoona Regional Health System becoming part of the UPMC network, but added that her office will continue to monitor the transaction and warned that UPMC "has every obligation to keep the Altoona facility accessible to all members of the public, without qualification."

Altoona Regional formally became UPMC Altoona on Monday.

The warning from the attorney general is in reference to the ongoing dispute between UPMC and Highmark Inc., which is the dominant health insurer in Blair County.

UPMC officials have said they will not extend the contract with Highmark beyond 2014 now that Highmark is building a competing health care delivery network, but they also have said they will negotiate with all insurers in more remote areas such as Altoona.

If Highmark and UPMC cannot reach an agreement in Altoona, Ms. Kane said she will consider all options to guarantee the public's access to its healthcare facilities.

"Charitable hospitals are community assets paid for by the public through donations, tax exemption subsidy and various government subsidies. Therefore, all residents should have access to these facilities regardless of their insurance carrier."

She said any Highmark subscriber denied treatment at UPMC Altoona can contact her Health Care Section by calling 717.705.6938, or via email at healthcare@attorneygeneral.gov.

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Steve Twedt: stwedt@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1963.


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