Highmark and UPMC dispute targeted by bills

Two state senators are planning to introduce legislation that would require health systems to contract with any willing insurer, effectively ending the Highmark Inc.-UPMC contract dispute while shaping future relations between big health systems and consumers.

Sens. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler Township, and Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, announced Friday they planned to introduced companion bills that would prohibit health systems from restricting access to facilities or services. The bills would mirror two bills introduced by Reps. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, and Jim Christiana, R-Beaver.

“While I have always had deep respect for the work UPMC has done in our region, we cannot sit by idly while thousands of patients are turned away from seeing their doctor,” Vulakovich said in a prepared statement. “Simply put, UPMC is a nonprofit institution and it should not dictate what doctor or hospital a patient chooses.”

UPMC hospitals and doctors will be out-of-network providers for more than a million Highmark members when Highmark’s contract with UPMC expires in December.

The Senate bills also would create a health care competition and oversight board to ensure that a competitive marketplace operates in the state and health services meet consumer needs. The Senate legislation will be introduced the week of Jan. 27.

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