Gov. Tom Corbett says he wants to minimize the disruption if people who are covered through western Pennsylvania’s biggest insurer, Highmark, lose in-network access to the dominant western Pennsylvania hospital system, UPMC.
Corbett’s statement Monday comes a month before Highmark is required to tell state regulators whether it has secured a new contract with UPMC. The current contract between the two companies ends Dec. 31.
Corbett says he doesn’t expect the companies to abandon their business objectives. But he also says the dispute shouldn’t force any patient in the midst of treatment to find a new doctor or force anyone to travel farther for hospital care.
Beginning June 2, the “Patients First” leadership team will begin its duties to join Highmark and UPMC in ensuring affordable medical care.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Consedine and Department of Health Secretary Michael Wolf will meet with Highmark and UPMC senior management to make sure that on Jan. 1, 2015 all patients will continue to have access to medical facilities, providers and specialized services.
In a press release the Governor stated, “No patient in the midst of treatment should be told he or she needs to find a new doctor, nor should anyone need to travel outside the area because their local community hospital is no longer an option.”
Gov.Tom Corbett talked to KDKA’s Marty Griffin after the announcement. He says the patients need to be the focus.
“I also am calling on the boards and senior management to put their differences aside to come together in a good faith meeting and put together a plan that does put the patients and consumers first,” said Corbett.
KDKA’s Mike Pintek continued the conversation speaking with Pennsylvania Senator Jay Costa. He also read the Governor’s press release and admits that while it doesn’t state outright that he will help resolve their issues, he believes this is a great step in the process of finally ending their dispute.
“I think it is a big announcement, the Governor is now on record as stating essentially that he is going to work towards a solution to the contract extension,” said Sen. Costa. “What this is telling me is that he has joined along with my colleagues and I, Senator Vulakovich and so many others in western Pa. who have said that these two need to have a contract extension and we need to work it out.”
UPMC Spokesman Paul Wood says he is very happy with the Governor’s announcement. He adds that for patients who are seriously ill there will be no dead line to transition, they can still receive medical care while on Highmark.
“Essentially what the Governor did today, and I think it’s a very good thing, is he accelerated the calendar,” said Wood. “Originally the transition planning process was supposed to begin on July 1 and so now we’ve moved it ahead to June 1.”
Highmark covers 3.2 million people in western Pennsylvania. Without an agreement, Highmark subscribers will have to pay more to use UPMC’s services next year.