Kortz disappointed by court ruling on consent decree regarding UPMC/Highmark

HARRISBURG, June 14 –The Commonwealth Court announcement today that it would not intervene in the impending June 30 dissolution of the consent decree between UPMC and Highmark is extremely disappointing and should be a call to action for legislators, said state Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny.

Last month, the state Supreme Court had overturned an earlier decision by Commonwealth Court that the June 30 termination date in the UPMC/Highmark agreements cannot be modified. Today, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson issued an order that the date could not be changed.

“To say I am deeply disappointed is an understatement and is an affront to patients, who deserve continued access to the health care facilities and providers they know and trust,” Kortz said. “This decision makes it crystal clear that if we want UPMC and institutions like it to do the right thing, the laws need to change. People’s lives are at risk.

“I am imploring Attorney General Josh Shapiro to consider appealing today’s decision. In addition, I’m asking UPMC’s board of directors to take a stand and do what’s right. I’m asking my colleagues to support House Bill 1211, which would require charity hospital-insurance company hybrids to behave in the public interest and stop them from taking advantage of sick and vulnerable Pennsylvanians.

“While this case will make its way through the court system and appeals will likely be filed in short order, thousands of Pennsylvanians are left wondering about their access to quality health care, and questions remain about the coordination and management of that care. People who are undergoing significant medical treatment should be focusing on their healing – not worrying about whether their insurance will cover their medical costs, or if they will continue to have access to the doctors and specialists they trust.”

Kortz was among 60 state representatives and six senators who signed a legal brief in early May supporting Shapiro’s February lawsuit against UPMC, which sought to modify and indefinitely extend the UPMC/Highmark consent decrees that expire later this month. Shapiro had filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court, asking the court to either expedite review of the consent decrees before they expire, or to keep them in place while the lawsuit is ongoing.