Editorial: Court confident in UPMC, Shapiro showdown
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice David Wecht clearly has a lot of confidence in lawyers.
When the court issued a split-decision ruling Tuesday regarding Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s attempt to force a resolution to the ticking time bomb that is the end of the UPMC-Highmark agreement, Wecht showed a great deal of faith that everything could work out.
“We are confident that the skilled advocates before us will be able to marshal adequate extrinsic evidence of the parties’ intent expeditiously, and to promptly build a narrowly focused record sufficient for the fact-finder to interpret the contested provision,” Wecht wrote.
The court opted not to change the June 30 deadline that looms just one month out. One point for UPMC, which called the ruling a victory. The court also opted not to just call Shapiro’s argument dead, instead sending it back to Commonwealth Court to re-argue that point. One point for Shapiro, and by extension, Highmark.
Which means after months of debate, negotiation and legal posturing, the whole issue of who will be able to get cancer treatment at all of UPMC’s hospitals, and who will be able to get heart surgery, and who will be able to get a knee replaced, and who will be able to afford a home and food after paying for it all up front, is still not resolved.
And even if Commonwealth Court does get the parties back in front of judges to go over the issue of the 2014 consent decree’s looming expiration, that just moves the chains on one issue. It doesn’t guarantee that it won’t all happen again when a new deadline is on the horizon.
The problem isn’t a contract that spells out when things start and stop and who pays for what. The problem is that nothing is what it seems.
Health care is big business except when it is prime politics. UPMC and Highmark are both insurance companies, except when they are hospitals. They are nonprofits, except when they need to focus on market share and bottom lines. Sick people are patients except when they are customers.
Wecht believes lawyers can resolve this in 30 days. Maybe lawyers are lawyers except when they are superheroes.