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Lawmakers wrong on UPMC-Highmark fight

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By Stephen Demaura
Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

As a Pennsylvania resident and the president of Americans for Job Security, I am dismayed that lawmakers in our state are choosing big-government policies over free-market principles. State Reps. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, and Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, have already introduced legislation that would force University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and Highmark Inc. into a contract. This week, state Sens. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler Township, and Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, are expected to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

Their legislation would kill market competition and limit affordable consumer choices by forcing the two entities that offer both health insurance and health care into a contract. Not surprisingly, their legislation has the backing of liberal groups such as the Service Employees International Union.

Millions of Americans have lost their health insurance or are experiencing higher premiums due to President Obama's flawed health care law. ObamaCare has shown Americans what happens when the government oversteps its bounds in the health care marketplace. Lack of competition in the marketplace will always lead to increased costs and decreased quality of care, which is why action by these Pennsylvania legislators is so concerning.

The health care fight is between Highmark and UPMC. Highmark is Western Pennsylvania's largest health insurer and it has also recently acquired a network of struggling hospitals. UPMC, as it's known locally, is the region's largest health network. It is also an insurance provider.

After a decade-long contract, UPMC chose cut its ties with Highmark. As a private entity, that is its decision to make.

Highmark isn't hurting as a result. It just partnered with the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. This is a strong demonstration that competition in the marketplace works.

State legislators have no business entering into a fight between these two private entities. Their decision to follow big-government health care policies like ObamaCare could have a chilling effect on the marketplace if other states take similar steps. It could also set the stage for one large insurer to continue dominating the market, further threatening all hospitals in Pennsylvania and across the country.

Americans for Job Security takes pride in fighting for policies that strengthen free-market forces to modernize the health care sector. We support solutions that are grounded in free-market principles, solutions that spur economic growth and further enable our health care system to absorb the shock of ObamaCare.

The legislation spearheaded by Reps. Christiana and Frankel and Sens. Vulakovich and Costa flies in the face of everything we stand for.

The Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania and the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania both oppose this brazen attempt to increase Harrisburg's role in private health care decisions. I encourage you to join this fight as well.

If you want health care policies that promote free-market principles and lead to quality and affordable care in Pennsylvania and across this country, please call your state representative and senator today and tell them to say no to this egregious overreach.

Stephen DeMaura is president of Americans for Job Security.

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