Public meeting needed

With regard to the June 16 article in the Altoona Mirror, “CEO: Hospital on target for merger,” I read with amazement the hospital administration and board have such little concern for Blair County residents with Highmark insurance.

I am one of the thousands of people who signed the petition and still have lots of questions, despite the CEO’s remark that “questions from the community have been rare.”

Since there has not been one single public meeting or anyone reaching out to hear from the public, except the nurses from Altoona Regional, what do they expect? Where do we go to get real answers – not UPMC’s talking points?

Despite what is being said that UPMC will still seek a contract with Highmark to cover Altoona Regional Hospital, I am still worried, particularly about having to pay higher costs since my family has Highmark.

Will health care costs go up if Highmark feels pressured to pay higher rates so their 44,000 subscribers in Blair County have access to Altoona Hospital?

If Altoona Hospital CEO Jerry Murray, thinks this is just a scare tactic, he needs to read this month’s AARP Bulletin “Merger Mania” article about the impact of hospital mergers. It says, in part, the “system of hospitals has greater bargaining power with insurance companies than a single hospital and, therefore, demand higher prices for its services.”

In the end, patients wind up paying these increased costs of consolidation.

I am still hopeful that the Altoona Hospital will consider the needs of everyone in the community – even the residents who have Highmark insurance.

Joan Pine, Duncansville