My office has fielded a number of calls and e-mails from people with serious concerns and questions regarding the current conflict between Highmark, Inc. (Highmark) and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). Many are worried about where they will turn for health coverage and care if Highmark and UPMC do not reach an agreement.

Highmark is the dominant health insurance provider in Allegheny County, and UPMC is the dominant health care provider.  So if the two do not come to an agreement, it could be disastrous for health care consumers and employers in our region. Patients’ access to health care should not be the rope in this tug of war.

As a core value, I believe everyone has the right of access to high-quality, affordable health care.  Under PA Act 55 of 1997, both Highmark and UPMC are recognized as Institutions of Purely Public Charity, e.g. nonprofits.  Their behavior is hardly charitable toward the needs of our citizens, and public officials are taking steps to hold them accountable.

I will be convening a Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, September 8 at 7 p.m. in Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall Ballroom.  This forum will be open to community members and stakeholders who want to express their concerns and take action. Please join us.

Additionally, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will convene a public hearing regarding this matter on September 13 at Penn State McKeesport, and the House Insurance Committee will convene a similar hearing on August 25 at the Allegheny County Courthouse.