Oh, Henry: Who will rid us of the UPMC-Highmark dispute?
“He who has health, has hope, and he who has hope, has everything,” said Thomas Carlyle, the 19th-century Scottish philosopher and writer. And that pretty much sums up the principle behind the decades-long drive for guaranteed health care for all Americans.
As ObamaCare moves slowly but inexorably forward, the national debate surrounding implementation is now more political theater than anything else. Soon, most questions will be settled and one side will be vindicated while the other will look foolish.
Still, there are smaller political vignettes, also swirling around health care at the state and local levels, the outcomes of which are not so certain. They are the stuff of which political futures are made. One is peculiar to Pittsburgh.
The nature of the problem is best understood by recalling the utter exasperation of Henry II, who had appointed his pal Thomas Becket to be archbishop of Canterbury, only to be disappointed at every turn. At wit's end, Henry finally queried, “Who will rid me of the turbulent priest?”
While the circumstances are vastly different, Pittsburghers are feeling just as exasperated with UPMC and Highmark. The region enjoys a wealth of excellent health care, all subsidized by the taxpayers, and the people are entitled to access it all. Instead, they are treated to an ad nauseam advertising and legal war.
Like medieval forces catapulting boulders at each other, these two have filled the airwaves with ads and actors feigning concern over this phony issue or that, each playing on emotions, fear-mongering in the most polite ways. It's all crap.
And people are on to them. “CBS This Morning” challenged UPMC's claims of charitable purpose in a special report this May that cited a 2011-12 profit of nearly $1 billion, a $6 million chief-executive salary, a dozen administrators making over a million dollars, luxurious executive offices, plush dining facilities and corporate jets.
And no advertising campaign could ever purge the stain on UPMC's corporate soul resulting from its decision to close Braddock Hospital. That hospital, in that place, serving those citizens in need, might have been the only legitimate claim that UPMC had to charitable status. And UPMC tore it down.
For two public officials, this is low-hanging political fruit. Both Gov. Tom Corbett and Attorney General Kathleen Kane have the legal authority to bring UPMC and Highmark into line, force an agreement that would end this childishness and put the public at ease.
For Corbett, it would be an easy plus in a tough re-election fight, helping him reconnect with his critical base in the Southwest. But it will take more than public scolding. And for Kane, already showing signs of a future contender, it is an opportunity to become an overnight player where she is still essentially unknown.
The stage is set for political heroics. The public is pining for a savior. And the good people of Western Pennsylvania have one question for their elected officials:
Who will rid us of this turbulent hospital dispute?
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.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.
- Pirates say goodbye to veteran leaders Burnett, Ramirez
- Elizabeth Forward wins seesaw battle over Yough
- Safety of credit cards up to banks
- NFL notebook: Cardinals to stay in W.Va. ahead of Steelers game
- Steelers notebook: Starting DEs not leaving the field
- South Fayette extends winning streak in dominating fashion
- Opposing TEs Miller, Gates took differing paths to greatness
- Gorman: WPIAL must answer with power move
- Feds aim to bring Chinese military leaders to Pittsburgh for trial
- Roundup: Uncle Charley’s Sausage expands sales to Maryland, Virginia; SABMiller meets with investors amid takeover bid; more
- State woos Kennametal with $1M in incentives to stay in Pa.