Bizzarro signs onto bills that would protect state’s health consumers

Would require hybrid hospital-insurers like UPMC to act in public interest

HARRISBURG, June 19 – Citing the need to protect the state’s consumers in the wake of last week’s court ruling refusing to extend the UPMC/Highmark consent decree beyond June 30, state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, has signed onto legislation that would require hybrid hospital-insurers like UPMC to behave in the public interest.

Bizzarro is co-sponsoring H.B. 1211 and H.B. 1213, which are aimed at stopping predatory practices by hospitals that own their own health insurance plans. Both bills would require these “Integrated Delivery Networks” to contract fairly with other insurers.

“Hospitals like UPMC that also provide health insurance are in a unique position of paying themselves for health care delivery,” Bizzarro said. “That means they can use predatory pricing to undercut competing insurers by charging their own health care plans less for services. The big losers are Pennsylvania’s health care consumers, who stand to lose access to their chosen providers. The bills I’m co-sponsoring would help put an end to these practices by requiring hybrid hospital-insurers like UPMC to contract fairly with all insurance companies.”

Bizzarro added that UPMC’s failure to extend its consent decree with Highmark is especially troubling given the hospital’s status as a charitable organization.

“As a charity, UPMC occupies a special position of trust with the state’s consumers, who fund its facilities and services through taxpayer dollars,” Bizzarro said. “UPMC could have chosen to do the right thing and extend the consent decree, but it failed to do so, and the courts so far have also been unable to provide a remedy. Although we expect an appeal, the clock continues ticking, and we’re running out of options. It’s essential that we act now to ensure that our state’s health consumers receive the fair deal – and the care – they deserve.”

In May, the state Supreme Court heard an appeal on the issue of when the consent decree expires and returned the issue to the state Commonwealth Court, which ruled Friday that the decree could not be extended.

Last week’s ruling is part of litigation filed in February by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro seeking to modify the UPMC/Highmark consent decree, arguing that as a charitable organization, UPMC has an obligation to protect patients’ access to affordable care and to facilities that patients have funded through their own tax dollars.

Similar legislation to address the UPMC/Highmark issue was introduced previously, during the 2013-14 legislative session, but was referred to committee and never came up for a vote.