Senator says Highmark trying to lure patients from Excela
The fallout from the battle between health care giants Highmark Inc. and UPMC is “unfair” and will ultimately harm community-based hospitals such as Excela Health, state Sen. Kim Ward said on Wednesday.
The Hempfield Republican accused Highmark of dangling financial incentives in front of Excela physicians to lure patients to Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville, part of the West Penn Allegheny Health System. Highmark is awaiting state approval of its $475 million deal to buy West Penn Allegheny.
Ward made the comments during a Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing at Westmoreland County Community College where the medical turf war and its impact on the region's smaller hospitals was discussed.
The senator was critical of what she called attempts by Highmark to recruit Excela physicians.
Highmark Executive Vice President Deborah Rice said that isn't true.
“We are not interested in moving patients away from community hospitals,” Rice said. “We've made it clear to Excela's leadership that Highmark has no plans to recruit physicians currently employed by Excela and we would like to work with them on partnerships with independent physicians.”
She said patients already are bypassing Excela.
“More and more care is migrating directly to Pittsburgh-based facilities that have high costs and are less convenient,” she said. “We estimate that medical care (worth) around $300 million (is) what is leaving Westmoreland County and moving to Pittsburgh.”
But Ward wasn't buying Rice's explanation.
“Although I have heard repeatedly, from Highmark in particular, that they want to work with the community hospitals, their actions behind the scenes — setting up shell companies to buy up property and physicians in the counties surrounding Allegheny — tell a different story,” Ward said.
Highmark has spent $32 million purchasing land in Allegheny, Butler and Washington counties to build medical malls.
After the hearing, Ward said Highmark also is using shell companies in Westmoreland County to purchase land and medical practices. “Everything's under a fake name,” she said. “Even the physicians are under a fake name.”
James Breisinger, chairman of the board of Greensburg-based Excela Health, said Excela would prefer to stay out of the struggle.
Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or email@example.com.
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.