Editorial: UPMC, Highmark still need permanent solution | TribLIVE.com

Editorial: UPMC, Highmark still need permanent solution

Erin Ninehouser (left), spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Health Access Network advocacy group, and Vicki Arnett (center), whose husband is a cancer patient from Western Pennsylvania, and Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner (second from right) were among speakers at a May 14 rally in Harrisburg calling for urgent legislative intervention in the UPMC-Highmark divorce.

Break out the champagne. The crisis has been averted.

No, not the tensions surrounding U.S. and Iranian relations. No, not North Korea. It’s not the war on drugs or the war on terror or even the war on Christmas.

The peace treaty on the table is between Highmark and UPMC.

This hostility wouldn’t have involved guns or tanks. No drones would get shot down or do any shooting. It was all on paper. It was about who would have access to the life-saving hospitals and groundbreaking treatments available, and who was going to have to show up with a suitcase of cash like they were negotiating with kidnappers.

Every day closer to the June 30 end of the 2014 consent decree between the two nonprofits/insurance companies/health care systems meant we came closer to real casualties. People could have put off necessary procedures at UPMC facilities because they didn’t have the money for treatment even though they had insurance. People could have eschewed the care they needed because they were picking from what they were told they could have without writing a check.

People could have suffered. People could have died.

The deal announced Monday by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, shoulder to shoulder with Gov. Tom Wolf, will save lives and it will save sick people and their families money.

But it is not the Paris Peace Treaties that ended World War II. It is more like the Christmas Eve cease-fire of 1914 — a respite from World War I hostilities long enough to come out of the trenches, sing songs together and share some camaraderie before picking up weapons again.

Because this new agreement is 10 years long. That may be double the length of the previous consent decree, but it still gives an end date when we could be here again.

The last decree was also negotiated by the state. Let’s hope the state doesn’t walk away from this only to remember it when the two sides start to move troops into position again. Maybe these coming 10 years can be used to find a permanent peace instead of a tenuous truce.

Just sip the champagne. Don’t gulp it. And then everyone go back to the negotiating table and find a lasting answer.

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