Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski applaud news of new UPMC-Highmark contract

HARRISBURG, June 24 – State Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins, and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, lauded today’s news that UPMC and Highmark have entered into a 10-year contract, beginning July 1, that will provide Highmark customers continued access to all UPMC doctors and facilities.

“News of this agreement to preserve Highmark customers’ access to UPMC doctors and facilities for the next decade comes as a tremendous relief to the millions of Pennsylvanians who were living under the specter of losing access to the trusted relationships they had formed with chosen providers,” said Bizzarro. “As lawmakers, we were prepared to do whatever was necessary – including crafting a legislative solution – to preserve those relationships, but thanks to the efforts of both sides and work of the attorney general in helping to bring them together, Pennsylvanians won’t have to worry and wonder any longer because the promise of continued care has been restored.”

Harkins agreed, saying, “Today’s agreement comes as the best possible news for the people of western Pennsylvania. The possibility of Erie residents losing access to their chosen care providers has been foremost on my mind since the clock began ticking on this consent decree nearly five years ago. I’ve received hundreds of calls and emails from constituents worried about how this was going to negatively impact health care options for themselves and their families. I have worked closely with Josh Shapiro and met numerous times with UPMC officials in Erie and Pittsburgh. I’m delighted the conflict has been resolved and that Pennsylvania’s consumers are the winners.”

Merski echoed those sentiments, saying, “I’m extremely relieved that UPMC and Highmark have come together on behalf of the state’s consumers to preserve choice and ensure citizens of western Pennsylvania will have ongoing access to quality care they deserve. Our residents have lived for too long with the threat of losing access to their chosen doctors and with fear and anxiety over the potential financial impacts. When you’re sick, the last thing you want to worry about is whether the hospital will take your insurance. Thankfully, the agreement announced today averts those problems and ensures residents of western Pennsylvania can look forward to a decade of certainty and the care they deserve.”

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro first filed suit against UPMC in February, seeking to modify the UPMC/Highmark consent decree. The lawsuit argued, among other things, 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.

Hearing one issue of that lawsuit, a commonwealth court ruled last week that it did not have the authority to extend the consent decree, prompting Bizzarro, Harkins and other legislators to support legislation that would have required charitable hospitals like UPMC – which function both as care providers and insurers – to act in the public interest.