Harkins, Merski add their names to brief supporting AG’s suit against UPMC

HARRISBURG, April 25 – Vowing to fight for patient health care choice, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, have signed onto a legal brief filed yesterday by the House Democratic Caucus in support of the state attorney general’s lawsuit against UPMC.

That suit is seeking to modify and indefinitely extend the UPMC-Highmark Health consent decrees that are set to expire on June 30.

“Expiration of these consent decrees strikes at the very heart of patient choice and patient care,” Harkins said. “By refusing to extend the decrees, UPMC is effectively cutting off patients’ access to the providers with whom they have developed trusted, long-term relationships. I’m hearing from residents – including those who work at public safety jobs putting their lives on the line for us – who are deeply distressed about the thought of losing this access.  We can’t stand by and allow that to happen.”

Merski agreed, noting that members of the Erie community are particularly impacted.

“So many in our community depend on these relationships that they’ve developed over the years with their chosen providers,” Merski said. “It’s reasonable to expect UPMC to abide by its responsibilities as a charitable organization. Unfortunately, UPMC does not appear to see it as an obligation, despite the fact that it is funded by patients’ taxpayer dollars.”

Attorney General Josh Shapiro filed suit to modify the consent decrees in February, arguing that UPMC is obligated, as a charitable organization funded by taxpayer dollars, to protect patients’ access to affordable care. Shapiro filed an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court earlier this month 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.

The House Democratic Caucus’s amicus curiae brief provides additional support for the lawsuit.

Also yesterday, a federal court judge dismissed a lawsuit UPMC had filed against the attorney general challenging his authority to modify the consent decrees.