HARRISBURG – Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) today issued a statement on UPMC’s extension of access to UPMC Hillman Cancer Center for Highmark customers and announced new legislation to ensure care will continue.
“We are pleased to hear that UPMC has offered to extend Highmark customers’ access to UPMC Hillman Cancer Center after the consent decree expires on June 30. This is an encouraging step on its own, as well as a positive indication for negotiations to extend access to UPMC Children’s Hospital after its current agreement expires in 2022.
“While we await further details and an agreement on terms, this marks an important step toward guaranteeing that our most vulnerable patients have access to our best medical care.
“We have always contended that the competition between UPMC and Highmark/Allegheny Health Network has brought our region improvements in health care quality, as well as reduced health insurance costs. We now have the second-lowest health care costs among the 30 largest metropolitan areas, while the world-class care provided in our region has dramatically improved over the past two decades.
“Nonetheless, we have also always felt that certain specialty facilities were singular in their quality and services and were not capable of being replicated. This includes the Hillman Cancer Center, as well as Children’s Hospital.
“I have been deeply engaged with this issue since it first arose in 2011, initially as Majority Leader and now as Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. At that time, I organized hearings throughout the Pittsburgh area to solicit input from residents on the impact of the dispute between these integrated health care organizations.
“In response, we introduced House Bill 2052 of 2011
, which would have provided for binding arbitration between a Blue Cross insurer, like Highmark, and a health care provider, like UPMC, where the public interest required it. I ensured the bill’s rapid consideration and eventual passage by the House, with a bipartisan vote of 186-6.
Within weeks of passage of our bill, UPMC and Highmark signed the negotiated settlement extending the consent decree through June 30, 2019.
“After the mediated agreement of 2012 and the consent decree signing in 2014, I have continued to meet with patients, advocates and leaders to seek a sustainable outcome of the separation process as UPMC and Highmark approached the June 30, 2019, consent decree expiration date.
“It is important to note that today’s commitment by UPMC to provide continued specialty hospital access to all patients is the result of sustained dialogue and cooperation, not combativeness, lawsuits or antagonism.
“But we also must work to ensure that this cooperation and these good-faith negotiations continue, and result in agreements providing ongoing access to Hillman and Children’s for all patients. To that end, we intend to introduce legislation requiring binding arbitration for access to pediatric hospitals. And, if parties are unable to reach an agreement for access to Hillman, we will introduce legislation extending those provisions to specialty cancer facilities as well.”
Representative Mike Turzai
Speaker of the House
Pennsylvania House of Representatives