Activists Charge Contract Dispute between Two Nonprofits Places Vulnerable at Risk

April 30, 2012; Source: Essential Public Radio

In Pittsburgh, Pa., contract talks between a nonprofit health network, UPMC (the largest health care provider in the area), and Highmark, a nonprofit health insurer in the state, have broken down. Now, health care consumers are out in the street demanding legislative intervention. If the contract negotiations do not work out, tens of thousands would have to pay much more to access their UPMC health care providers, and that is not acceptable, according to the Coalition for Health Care Choice.

A rally held on Monday saw most of the speakers blaming UPMC for the breakdown. Leo Gerard, the president of United Steelworkers, asserts that UMPC is engaging in, “economic blackmail…This is simply them trying to use their regional strength of having acquired so many hospitals to try and beat not only Highmark, but us, into submission.” Speakers for patients with mental health needs and disabilities focused particularly on the problem the breakdown would cause for them in terms of interruptions of their relationships with trusted caregivers. “It’s literally taken decades for me to cultivate a relationship with my physicians,” said Anne Nalepa of the Three Rivers Center for Independent Living. “I don’t have the time or the money to start over.”

Apparently legislation has been drafted that would ensure access to some of UPMC’s facilities are available to those carrying any insurance. This article asserts that although legislators are not “taking sides,” they do acknowledge UPMC’s $3 billion surplus and “aggressive business tactics.” –Ruth McCambridge