UPMC health plan up 32,300, a 7% gain
UPMC's health insurance division added 32,300 members in the last year, a 7 percent gain, as competition for subscribers with Highmark Inc. heated up.
Three other national insurers also are pecking away at Highmark's stronghold in Western Pennsylvania's commercial health insurance business. UPMC officials said on Wednesday that gives them confidence the health care system will weather the end of its contract with Highmark at the end of this year.
“We're very confident ... that we're going to do very well,” UPMC Chief Financial Officer Robert DeMichiei said during a meeting with reporters to discuss the hospital giant's latest financial report.
DeMichiei wasn't able to say how many of the new members added by UPMC Health Plan came because their employers switched from Highmark. Members also could have been added because employers began offering health insurance to employees for the first time, or they switched to UPMC Health Plan for another reason.
But Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp. and United Healthcare also are adding employer groups to their membership rolls, he said.
“It has to come from somewhere,” DeMichiei said. “Highmark is the dominant insurer.”
Highmark scored two high-profile victories recently in the fight to keep members from moving to an insurer that can guarantee full in-network access starting on Jan. 1 to UPMC's 20 hospitals and 3,500 doctors — the largest system in the region.
A consortium representing 43,000 public school employees and their families from 42 districts in Allegheny County said on Wednesday it would remain with Highmark through June 2018. The Allegheny County Schools Health Insurance Consortium said it decided to keep Highmark coverage because it would save money by sending workers to Highmark's hospital system, the seven-hospital Allegheny Health Network.
And last month, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that the county would stick with Highmark through 2015, keeping 15,000 employees and dependents on the insurer's rolls.
Those decisions “demonstrate that our customers are behind the Blue Cross brand,” Highmark spokesman Aaron Billger said. “Our membership continues to remain strong.”
James McTiernan, a health care consultant with Downtown benefits firm Triad Gallagher, said Highmark and UPMC are fighting for power over Pittsburgh's health care market. For every employer group that decides to stick with Highmark, the insurer gains leverage that could force UPMC to agree to a contract rather than risk losing significant revenue, he said.
On the other side, he said, for every member that leaves Highmark, UPMC blunts the potential impact of its breakup with Highmark, he said.
“If you look at leverage, Highmark's leverage is members. ... UPMC's leverage is if Highmark is losing membership,” he said. “By locking up significant membership, it has to have some impact.”
Highmark reported 3.2 million members in Western Pennsylvania as of Dec. 31, a number that included an undisclosed number of people who work for large companies based in the region but work outside the state, and its Medicare Advantage members. The total was unchanged from a year earlier.
UPMC Health Plan, the second-largest health insurer in the region, had 483,935 members with health plans through an employer or an individual policy as of March 31. That was up from 451,635 members a year ago. Its total membership, which includes Medicare and Medicaid members and members in county-based mental health plans, was 2.3 million as of March 31, up from 2.1 million a year earlier.
The gain in members helped push UPMC's revenue for the January-March quarter to $2.8 billion, up 8 percent from $2.6 billion in the same quarter a year ago.
Profit from its operations was $64.1 million, a 4 percent increase from $61.6 million a year earlier. Gains from UPMC's insurance business drove the increase, DeMichiei said. Meanwhile, the hospital business was a drag on profitability as severe winter weather led to patients missing appointments.
UPMC's net income was $102.9 million, down from $170 million a year earlier. The decline was caused by lower earnings from investments, DeMichiei said.
Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add Alex Nixon to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- W.V. entrepreneurs offer hope as coal fades as economic engine
- Demand for surveillance systems boosts sales for Vector Security
- Cyber Monday increasingly a ‘blah-iday’ as deals rolled out earlier, longer
- Pennsylvania Game Commission reaps revenue from shale gas under game lands
- Distractions can help keep riders alert in self-driving cars, study finds
- Fed slashes its emergency power options in crisis
- Stocks dip on lower holiday spending fears
- IMF adds China’s yuan to basket of top currencies
- University of Pittsburgh researchers revisit war of electric currents
- U.S. Steel to cut 3 HMOs for retirees; premiums could soar if deal not struck
- Stop neighbors from stealing your Internet