UPMC rewriting rules

When it comes to Pennsylvania health-care giants, what happens in Pittsburgh may not stay in Pittsburgh.

I was glad to see the Altoona Mirror cover the House Democratic Policy Committee hearing there last week (“UPMC: Highmark access won’t end,” April 30).

I attended the hearing to get a glimpse of what a UPMC system in Altoona might mean for our region’s healthcare and patients, and I wasn’t encouraged. I heard testimony from UPMC patients – cancer survivors among them – who told their story of being cut off from their UPMC doctors and treatment facilities for carrying the wrong insurance card: they are Highmark Community Blue subscribers.

On the day of the hearing, UPMC appeared to bow to pressure, announcing it would allow Community Blue subscriber access to its doctors and facilities, but the “choice” UPMC is offering is no choice for many subscribers. UPMC is now offering access but with undetermined out-of-pocket fees.

People have joined Community Blue for its affordability, and UPMC’s solution of access through potentially expensive out-of-network fees defeats this purpose.

UPMC is trying to rewrite the rules and put profits over patients. As a registered nurse at Altoona Regional Hospital, and as a health insurance customer, I am concerned about UPMC playing corporate games here if the planned July 1 merger with Altoona Regional Health System goes through.

Sandra Starr Romano