Hospital needs transparency

Regarding your June 14 article, “Petition protesting hospital merger delivered to brass,” you can add me among the thousands of concerned citizens who signed the petition over UPMC’s planned acquisition of Altoona Regional Health System.

I am proud to be involved in the delegation of people from the community who want more transparency from this deal. We have been in the dark too long, and there are still many questions the hospital board needs to answer.

Of course, the biggest question is how UPMC will treat Blair County’s 44,000 Highmark subscribers.

Even if we believe UPMC’s claim that there will be Highmark access at the UPMC-acquired Altoona Regional, what does that mean for Blair County’s Highmark patients who have to travel to a UPMC hospital in Pittsburgh for specialized treatment?

Will those patients be on the hook for high out-of-network costs?

One thing that is so disappointing is that in your article, “CEO: Hospital on target for merger,” you noted that hospital CEO Jerry Murray said questions about the merger have been rare. It’s easy to see how many community members may feel that their concerns are being completely ignored.

I read in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the UPMC board of directors passed a resolution last week (June 12) that it will not extend a contract with Highmark insurance after the 2014 expiration, so I, for one, am not convinced UPMC has the best interest of patients in mind.

Altoona Regional is our only hospital. We deserve to see it kept accessible and affordable to everyone in the community.

Gillian Kratzer