ShareThis Page
Editorial: UPMC, Highmark show charities are big business |

Editorial: UPMC, Highmark show charities are big business

Tribune-Review file
The UPMC and Highmark buildings in Downtown Pittsburgh.

When Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Thursday that he was going to court to break up the UPMC-Highmark catfight, it put a spotlight on something that frequently gets forgotten when dealing with the big business of health.

They are both nonprofit organizations.

Neither of them hide that. In fact, it is the most common hospital ownership form. According to Forbes, 59 percent of hospitals are nonprofit. It’s something that sounds good — comforting, even — when you’re talking about being sick or hurt or scared. You want someone who is there to help, not someone there to take your wallet before your pulse.

But hospitals and health insurance are still big business, and UPMC and Highmark represent both. UPMC has its initials stamped on 35 hospitals, 23 outpatient or community health centers, 12 urgent care facilities and more, while Highmark’s provider side is the Allegheny Health Network with its own seven hospitals plus additional surgery centers, urgent cares and “Health + Wellness Pavilions.”

Between the two of them, they have more medical facilities than some states and revenues higher than the budgets of small countries.

None of that is bad. But it does more than blur the line between business and charity. It buries it.

There is nothing wrong with being a business. There is nothing wrong with being a nonprofit. Both have a place in the landscape of Southwestern Pennsylvania and the health care industry.

But you can’t be one when it’s convenient and the other when it’s not. You can’t be one when applying for grants and tax breaks and the other when sending out bills and changing how people can access doctors and hospitals.

Charity isn’t — or shouldn’t be — a costume.

Charity is a calling, like the one we assume most medical providers feel. Caring for the human body at some of its lowest points can be exhausting, emotional and painful, and not everyone providing that care is well-paid. Many do the work because they believe someone has to be there to give comfort or strength or hope when needed.

Hospitals and insurance companies need to be paid so they can continue to provide that care, whether they are nonprofit or not. But they don’t need gamesmanship and strategic moves against one another like Silicon Valley tech companies engaged in corporate espionage.

A charity is there to help people, not hurt them, especially not hurt them carelessly as part of a business strategy.

Categories: Opinion | Editorials
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.