On Jan. 1, UPMC will achieve its long-sought divorce from Highmark. The separation will undoubtedly disrupt care, add untold stress and potentially harm thousands. UPMC, in refusing even to negotiate a renewed contract, has plainly driven the breakup.Op Ed Columns - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sphere: Related Content
UPMC’s grounds for divorcing Highmark are tenuous. In testimony to the Legislature, UPMC complained that Highmark threatens to injure UPMC by “steering” patients to the “now-struggling” Allegheny Health Network, which Highmark has supported to serve as competitive foil to UPMC.
UPMC further explained, “Western Pennsylvania simply has too many hospital beds, and any gain in admissions at one hospital must come at the expense of other hospitals.”
In brief, UPMC believes competition against Highmark is good, but competition against UPMC is bad. UPMC touts creation of the UPMC Health Plan as “a competitive thorn in Highmark’s side,” but derides its own competitors as malevolent meddlers. As once explained by its CEO, UPMC’s goal is to create a “benevolent monopoly.” Unfortunately, monopolies are rarely benevolent, and there is nothing suggesting that UPMC would forgo (untaxed) profits for the public good.