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Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett sits down with UPMC, Highmark

| Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Board members from UPMC and Highmark Health discussed their ongoing feud Tuesday with Gov. Tom Corbett during private talks in Harrisburg, a first meeting of the top representatives of the two biggest health care nonprofits in Western Pennsylvania.

Corbett declined to discuss the substance of the meeting, but he said he was pleased that “both parties came to the table today for this important discussion, and (he) is looking forward to more discussion in the weeks to come,” according to a spokeswoman, Christine Cronkright.

Spokesmen for Highmark and UPMC declined to comment on the meeting.

The session with board members followed a meeting late last week of Highmark and UPMC senior executives with Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine, Health Secretary Michael Wolf and Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

Corbett organized the meetings of what he calls the Patients First Leadership Team early last week to make sure UPMC and Highmark have a plan for patients to continue receiving care once most UPMC doctors and hospitals become out-of-network for Highmark insurance subscribers at the end of this year.

Highmark's non-Medicare members will lose less-costly in-network access to most of UPMC on Jan. 1 because UPMC has refused to renew a reimbursement contract with the state's largest health insurer. UPMC has said it can't contract with Highmark because the insurer intends to steer patients to its own hospital system, Allegheny Health Network.

While the meeting last week with senior executives also was private, Corbett wants the two sides to arrive at a plan for what will happen to Highmark members who receive care from UPMC doctors starting Jan. 1. Cronkright said Consedine and Wolf told the executives they have several expectations for the plan: that patients not be turned away from emergency rooms, that patients in the middle of treatment not be told to find a new hospital or doctor, and that patients not have to travel outside their local community for care they previously received near home.

While Corbett in 2012 brokered an extension of the UPMC-Highmark contract through Dec. 31, it remain unclear whether a contract renewal is part of the latest talks.

The parties share “the common goal of providing long-term certainty and clarity for consumers, regardless of whether there is a contract,” Cronkright said.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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