UPMC may want pain relief with Highmark merger's approval
Somewhere on the 62nd floor of the U.S. Steel building, UPMC President and CEO Jeffrey Romoff must be having a conniption.
His secret wish that nemesis Highmark Inc. would fail to acquire West Penn Allegheny Health System blew up this week when the deal won a key approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance.
Highmark's big win is UPMC's big loss. The insurer's plan to build the Allegheny Health Network threatens UPMC's tight control over the region's health care services and costs. Romoff will never admit it, but the Highmark-West Penn Allegheny partnership is about to give him one colossal headache.
He has plenty of reasons to be aggravated. Let's start with the selection of the name Allegheny Clinic for the Highmark-owned physicians' organization. That's Clinic with a capital C, as in Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, arguably the heavyweights among the nation's health care providers. Even though the word “clinic” seemed a bit confusing at first since some might think it's a facility versus a doctors group, it's actually a brilliant choice — both for its simplicity and connotation. The folks at Highmark are making clear they aim to attract the very best doctors and build a network that can stand alongside the most recognizable names in health care.
If not over that, you can bet Romoff has to be a bit indignant over Highmark's choice to lead its hospital network. John Paul, the newly appointed CEO of the Allegheny Health Network, used to be Romoff's right-hand man at UPMC.
The congenial and highly respected Paul engineered an unprecedented 10-year contract between UPMC and Highmark in 2002. He oversaw the transition of the former St. Francis Medical Center in Lawrenceville into the hands of Children's Hospital.
Paul “retired” (wink, wink) from UPMC in 2003, but everyone knows his relationship with Romoff had soured. While Paul has not worked at UPMC in a decade, it's fair to say he's intimately familiar with UPMC's tactics. He's smart and knows what he's doing. It may annoy Romoff and UPMC, but if anyone can inject life into West Penn Allegheny, it's John Paul.
There is, of course, one more aspect of this saga that UPMC certainly won't like. Allegheny Health Network is very capable of flourishing and being victorious. The network is filled with very talented physicians who have provided great care for decades. It is filled with thousands of workers who want nothing more than to provide health care choice to the people of Pittsburgh.
No one said it will be easy. West Penn Allegheny, the anchor of the new network, needs to make money. It needs to fill up its beds and perform more surgeries. But that's not an impossible goal.
UPMC's desire to eliminate West Penn Allegheny isn't new. In 2009, West Penn Allegheny filed a federal lawsuit in which it said a UPMC vice president had told physicians that it intended to “turn AGH into a parking lot,” referring to Allegheny General Hospital.
If the parking lot comment is true, and I personally have no reason to think it wasn't, the person who said it might have to eat his words. It's hard to imagine that anyone would let that happen.
Western Pennsylvania needs West Penn Allegheny as much as we need UPMC. Because at the end of day, you don't want to be told where you have to get your health care.
Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Rossi: Just wait until Ben comes back
- Tomlin on Bell’s late TD: ‘We were going to go for it’
- A farewell party for the Greenfield Bridge, then the headaches that follow
- Penguins notebook: Young and old embrace uniqueness of home opener
- Steelers defense displays resiliency in victory over Chargers
- Bell’s last-second TD lifts Steelers over Chargers
- Kicker Julius likely to keep his job, PSU’s Franklin says
- Pittsburgh considering self-insured health benefits to cut costs
- Pirates coach Sofield interviews for Padres manager
- Sisters of St. Francis of the Providence of God sell 33-acre Whitehall home
- Smallwood status uncertain heading into WVU’s game at No. 2 Baylor