By Martin Kinnunen
As her bus crossed the Susquehanna River, Malissa
Guzik made one last review of her notes and braced for a hectic day in the
“I’m very concerned,” said the unit
director at UPMC McKeesport. “We provide excellent care and help our
community in so many ways. But a major reduction in our admissions could undo
the good we do.”
To address that issue and others, Guzik and about 40 other UPMC employees from across the health system traveled
to Harrisburg on Tuesday to take part in UPMC Health Care
Professionals’ Advocacy Day.
Wearing scrubs and lab coats, the UPMC nurses
and physicians engaged in a series of meetings with state lawmakers. Many
encouraged their elected officials to support competition in health care and
health insurance and to oppose government intervention that would force UPMC to
renew its commercial services contract with Highmark beyond the end date of
Dec. 31, 2014.
In a filing to the Pennsylvania Department
of Insurance, Highmark has projected it must divert 41,000 admissions into its
new hospital system, the Allegheny Health Network, to ensure its success.
Highmark plans to divert these patients primarily from UPMC hospitals by
forcing or steering Highmark members to get their care at a Highmark facility.
These actions could result in the elimination of 11,000 UPMC jobs.
Leslie Spagnol, clinical
education specialist at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, told an official in the
office of state Sen. Matt Smith that those job losses would occur among the
support personnel who provide training and education services to physicians and
nurses. She added that community-based services would
be impacted. For example, staff to run methadone clinics, which are needed to
address rising rates of opiate addiction, might be cut.
Margaret Hayden, who
lives in Mt. Lebanon, part of Sen. Smith’s district, noted her neighbors ask
questions about what will happen to their health care coverage after Dec.
31. Some concerns have been quelled. Senior neighbors now understand that their
Medicare coverage will not be affected by the changing relationship between
Highmark and UPMC, said Hayden, administrative director, Nurse Education,
Practice and Research, UPMC Passavant.
But confusion remains among her working
neighbors who pay for commercial health insurance. Therefore, Hayden
supports launching a clear transition plan that would inform them about
commercial health care coverage options after Dec. 31.
During lunch, the UPMC contingent heard from
state Sen. Don White, chairman of the Banking and Insurance Committee. Sen.
White has called on Highmark to develop a transition plan.
Guzik, who participated in her first
Advocacy Day, was inspired by his message. “He told us, ‘We need to be out
there and to stick up for what we believe in,’” she said.