PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro takes on UPMC

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 at 5:10 PM

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has filed a lawsuit to prevent UPMC from diverging with Highmark Health. Shapiro’s legal action against UPMC is based on the potential harm that patients would face if UMPC discontinued their business relationship with Highmark Health.

According to The Morning Call, the realities of this split would mean patients could be left facing higher fees, or looking for new doctors. In addition, Shapiro’s 73-page petition aims to enforce Pennsylvania laws regarding fundraising for charity, nonprofit corporations and consumer protections. Shapiro even stated, “I can’t sit idly by and watch our seniors and children and workers suffer because of corporate greed.”

Shapiro’s proactive lawsuit, which he presented in court, entails a rectified consent decree that would continue a business relationship with UMPC and Highmark Health. The current consent degree was formed in 2014 as a way to curb the competition the two had against each other. It allowed consumers to use facilities from both groups and the decree is set to end in June 2019. Surprisingly, Highmark Health chief executive David Holmberg is in agreement with Shapiro and is on the record as stating, “We’ve always believed that a level playing field should exist among health insurance companies and health care providers.” In addition, Holmberg emphasized the importance of community relations.

Unfortunately, UPMC is not on board with this union. UPMC Vice President Paul Wood has claimed: “There is no state law that gives the attorney general the authority to force private parties into contracts. The region’s insurance marketplace has been changing in recent years, and consumers have benefited.”

This ethical call to action is not new to Shapiro, as his career in the attorney general role is filled with diverse cases. For example, Shapiro has made efforts to fight the current heroin epidemic, as well as aiding in LGBT marriage equality. According to joshshapiro.com, his “Meet Josh” page exclaims the following message: “Josh Shapiro is a rare public servant who has risen above politics time and again to take on the status quo and protect everyday Pennsylvanians. As a state representative, Josh wrote and passed some of the toughest ethics laws in state history.”

As a Pennsylvania resident, I am in favor of Shapiro’s lawsuit, as I believe, based on my research, his intentions are to advocate for members in our society and ensure the quality of health care. I find that Shapiro, now and in the past, is utilizing his political platform as a means to help the little man. The little man, in this case, refers to the outcasts or forgotten in our society, such as the older population. In addition, it’s rare in our current democratic system to find a public figure attempting to provide quality of life for individuals over more financial success for a corporation.

The answer may seem simple from an onlooker. To assert, the clear answer is to continue the business relationship between UPMC and Highmark Health; this will reduce harm to those most in need. However, that perspective may be tainted because we, the onlookers, are the ones that may live or witness the despair of inadequate health care.

High power political figures and companies, which are choosing and implementing our health care laws, are not the ones who worry about affording medications or seeing the appropriate doctor.

Aaron Billger, a Highmark Health spokesman, summed it up best by stating: “These are hospitals that were built for the community by taxpayer dollars, by community contributions, and the very people who paid for them will not be able to access them.”

JoAllie Paluchak  | edinborono.spectator@gmail.com

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