UPMC, Highmark dispute: Gov. Corbett must protect patients’ rights

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UPMC’s plan to treat our hospitals like private property and sequester them out of reach of the citizens who sustain them with their tax dollars, tax exemptions and insurance dollars should not be tolerated. It is certain that if there is no “in network” access it will separate patients from long-standing relationships with their hospitals and health professionals. Patients’ rights and safety will be subjugated to the “might is right,” “ends justify the means” corporate forces wielded by UPMC.

What speaks volumes about this is that the outcry has come from left and right, Democrat and Republican alike, as embodied in the patient empowering legislation of state Reps. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, and Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, and Sens. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler, and Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s “Patients First” initiative cannot live up to its title unless there is a contract and “in network” access. Unfortunately, Mr. Corbett seems to agree with UPMC’s view that only some citizens have rights to access our hospitals.

But when Gov. Corbett took his oath, he swore to defend the constitution which states: “All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty...” The oath and constitution create a contract with all citizens.

It is time for Republican Corbett and Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane to work together to advocate for patients first, not politics.

If Mr. Corbett will not truly put patients first, then the attorney general should pursue the lawsuit against UPMC for its flagrant violation of nonprofit law by making of our hospitals instruments of exploitation, for violating patients’ rights and subjecting them to unsafe medical practices, and then sue Gov. Corbett for breach of contract.

The writer is a UPMC physician and a member of the Citizen Patient Advocacy Network of Pennsylvania.

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