Let us talk to powers that be at Highmark
Turns out the state's largest health insurer wants us to meet some of the 20,000 people behind the name Highmark.
That much the insurer's board chairman, Bob Baum, said in full-page newspaper ads last week. The ads, a prelude to a full-blown campaign this summer, are clear evidence that Highmark is in damage control mode after the sudden downfall of CEO Ken Melani. The long-time leader was fired after a fistfight in Oakmont with the husband of his mistress, also a Highmark employee.
While the affair is what everyone keeps talking about, let's go back to the 20,000 workers we'll soon be meeting. Baum, a university professor, is trying to humanize a company that desperately needs to be humanized -- some say way before the Melani debacle. When was the last time you had a pleasant encounter with the person who told you Highmark wasn't going to pay for your surgery?
I'm sure Highmark has a lot of very nice, personable workers. They are our neighbors and friends, the people we see in line at Giant Eagle. You can go to the food court at Fifth Avenue Place and see them eating a salad or turkey sandwich for lunch, just like us.
But quite frankly, the people we want to meet are the Highmark leaders who are making decisions that affect all of us. We want to meet the board directors who hold conference calls and meetings and vote on issues that have a direct impact on our wallets.
I hope we get to meet the person who decides which medication Highmark will pay for, even if it goes against what the doctor ordered. Or the person who decides that one hospital gets paid more than another for the exact same procedure.
Hospitals and health care companies go out of their way to put their employees out front. On its website, UPMC features stories of employees and patients who have been "touched by the power of life changing medicine." They are truly touching and often powerful stories. How can anyone not be inspired by the little girl who couldn't eat and now devours food after an intestinal transplant?
But what about UPMC's CEO and board members• You know, the people who get to decide that UPMC will not sign a contract with Highmark• Who are they and where are they• You can find their names on that same website but that's about it. Good luck trying to ask them a question.
This week, the state insurance department held a hearing about Highmark's proposed acquisition of West Penn Allegheny Health System. Some of the most powerful words came from the front-line workers who care for patients around the clock.
A nurse for LifeFlight, West Penn Allegheny's medical helicopter, spoke about the importance of having two registered nurses on a flight instead of one. She said LifeFlight could be threatened without support from Highmark.
We need to hear from more workers like this, who tell it like it is because they work hard and take pride in what they do. I'm sure the 20,000 workers at Highmark have great stories to tell, too.
But let's not forget there are people who are higher up the food chain that need to show accountability. We need to meet them, too.
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.