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Smackdown: Corbett seeks to rein in Highmark, UPMC feud

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The Highmark acquisition of West Penn Allegheny Health System has been completed, but that doesn't mean the state is finished sorting out the health care situation in Western Pennsylvania.

There has long been tension between the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center health care system and Pittsburgh-based insurer Highmark Inc., which has a large presence in the midstate. Highmark's acquisition of WPAHS and its concurrent announcement that it was creating a Western Pennsylvania integrated health care delivery system only increased the tension.

Gov. Tom Corbett has issued a statement, as follows.

"Recent advertising and news reports regarding healthcare coverage and access to providers in western Pennsylvania are causing confusion and great concern among consumers who use Highmark insurance products and UPMC hospitals and providers."

(The confusion centers on whether Highmark patients will be able to see UPMC physicians.)

"Over the past months, my administration has been directly involved in overseeing a transition to the new healthcare landscape developing in western Pennsylvania. Our goal for western Pennsylvania and the entire commonwealth remains continued access to quality and affordable healthcare for consumers in a competitive and healthy marketplace. We will continue to take all steps necessary to ensure consumers are protected.

"As nonprofit entities with an obligation to their community, I expect that Highmark and UPMC will maintain a focus on their higher social mission — to responsibly serve the healthcare needs of thousands of western Pennsylvanians.

"At my direction, the Departments of Health and Insurance have reached out to Highmark and UPMC, requiring them to clarify any consumer confusion surrounding Highmark's CommunityBlue product and services at UPMC.

"As a result, the companies agreed to work together to help consumers better understand Highmark's CommunityBlue and the services they can access at UPMC facilities. While I understand that areas of disagreement between the companies remain, I believe this is an important step in the right direction and should serve as the foundation for the two companies to forge ahead on additional areas of agreement that protect consumers.

"These companies need to set aside personal opinions and agendas and work toward the common good of the shared community in which they are both important fixtures.

"I also have directed the Departments of Health and Insurance to create an interagency task force to monitor the ongoing communications and maintain the state's role in protecting consumers."

Heather Stauffer

Heather Stauffer

Heather Stauffer covers Lancaster County, nonprofits, education and health care. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at heathers@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @StaufferCPBJ.

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