Attorney General requests extension of controversial UPMC-Highmark agreement | TribLIVE.com
Allegheny

Attorney General requests extension of controversial UPMC-Highmark agreement

Dillon Carr
1078758_web1_web-upmc-highmark
The UPMC and Highmark buildings in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The attorney general’s office has asked the state Supreme Court to temporarily extend the soon-to-expire agreement between Pittsburgh health care rivals Highmark and UPMC, saying it would be impossible to settle the long-simmering dispute before June 30.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s filing on Wednesday said there is not enough time for the Commonwealth Court to consider the office’s efforts to change the 2014 agreement, which allow thousands of Highmark health insurance members to be treated by UPMC doctors and hospitals at in-network rates. The consent decrees expire June 30.

UPMC has not responded to Shapiro’s filing and declined to comment for this story.

The move, essentially made to earn Shapiro’s office more time to overhaul the consent decrees, came the same day a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania dismissed a UPMC lawsuit that challenged Shapiro’s authority to modify the consent decrees.

“To allow UPMC to achieve victory by delay at the expense of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Pennsylvanians would, in effect, violate the Commonwealth’s right to have its petition to modify heard at all,” Shapiro said in the court filing.

The attorney general reiterated in the brief that the 2014 consent decrees between the health care rivals contains a “modification provision” that allows anyone to modify the consent decree if it is in the public’s interest.

“There is nothing sacrosanct about the end date of the consent decree,” he said in the filing.

Shapiro said that a Commonwealth Court’s April 3 decision that ruled the consent decrees cannot be changed or extended indefinitely was an error and has appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Arguments on the appeal are scheduled May 16 in Harrisburg.

“Even with the court’s expedited briefing and argument schedule, it would be impossible for the Commonwealth Court to proceed to a final judgment on merits (before June 30),” Shapiro said in the brief.

Therefore, the attorney general requested the state Supreme Court to extend the end date of the consent decrees “until the courts have reached a final, unappealable decision on its petition for modification.”

Shapiro has argued that thousands of Highmark health insurance members would suffer financially and medically if they lose access to UPMC doctors and hospitals.

Among other demands, Shapiro asked in a Feb. 7 legal petition that UPMC hospitals and doctors to accept Highmark patients “in perpetuity” and drop a controversial prepay rule.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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.