HARRISBURG- Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane has announced that she will not formally object to a proposed hospital merger in the Altoona area. However, Kane says her office will continue to monitor the transaction, in order to protect consumers and specifically to guarantee that the public has continued access to Altoona healthcare facilities.
“The public, in a sense, paid for the hospitals in the Altoona area through their charitable donations and the tax breaks those facilities received,” said Kane. “If segments of the public were to be shut out from some hospitals, simply because big companies are in a battle for market share, that would be highly unfair.”
There has been an ongoing dispute between UPMC and Highmark. Kane says that is very important in the Altoona merger because 60 percent of those in Blair County who have health insurance are Highmark subscribers.
The Office of Attorney General has clearly told UPMC it has every obligation to keep the Altoona facility accessible to all members of the public, without qualification.
Kane says charitable hospitals are community assets paid for by the public through donations, tax exemption subsidy and various government subsidies. Therefore, all residents should have access to these facilities regardless of their insurance carrier. If Highmark and UPMC cannot work out a contract for the Altoona Regional Health System, Kane says, she will consider all options to guarantee the public’s access to its healthcare facilities.
“What needs to happen now is simple. These parties need to bargain with each other in good faith,” said Kane. “The Office of Attorney General will be there to make sure no segment of the public gets shut out of a hospital they helped to build.”
Kane asks that any Highmark subscriber denied treatment at UPMC Altoona contact her Health Care Section by calling 717.705.6938, or via email at email@example.com.
The Office of Attorney General’s review was completed by the Antitrust Section and the Charitable Trusts & Organizations Section.
UPMC issued this statement in response to Kane’s decision:
“UPMC appreciates the Attorney General’s thorough evaluation of its affiliation agreement with Altoona Regional and recognizes the importance of this complete review for all involved parties and most importantly for the communities the hospital serves. UPMC has and will continue to fully cooperate with the AG’s office.
“Given its mutually beneficial historical relationship with Altoona Regional to enhance patient care locally, UPMC is pleased that our formal partnership and shared vision will now serve to strengthen UPMC Altoona as this region’s premier health care provider, and further enable UPMC to support this hospital’s excellence and extend UPMC’s world-class care to all of the communities in this area today and well into the future.”