Elected Officials Support City’s Decision To Challenge UPMC’s Tax Status

It’s great to see so many of our elected leaders standing in support of our City’s challenge to UPMC’s status as purely public charity. They know that we need our largest landowner to contribute to city services, that we need our largest healthcare provider to give more care, and to care for everyone regardless of insurance, and that we need our largest employer to respect workers’ rights on the job.

Here’s a round-up of other elected leaders who are standing up to UPMC on behalf of the hardworking tax-payers, homeowners, small businesses and working people of Pittsburgh.

“The City of Pittsburgh is now taking an appropriate and long-awaited step forward in demonstrating that there will be consequences for mega-charities whose leaders do not meet the standards of a purely public charity.” – City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak

“As Controller, I see the impact on all of our City residents when Pittsburgh’s largest landowner, largest employer, and dominant health system doesn’t pay its fair share. We all pay the price in reduced City services and higher taxes on working families.” – City Controller Michael Lamb

“UPMC has been aggressive in buying hospitals and taking property off the tax rolls, paying its executives exorbitant salaries, and investing in overseas operations while taking advantage of lucrative tax exemptions that are supposed to be reserved for true charities. When UPMC doesn’t pay its fair share to support public services, every taxpayer ends up picking up the tab.” – PA. Democratic Party Chair Jim Burn

“A good first step” and “As mayor, I will continue challenging UPMC in court.” – City Councilman Bill Peduto

“The law requires that for entitlement to the tax exemptions that go along with being classified as a charity an organization must operate ‘entirely free of private profit motive.’ Its large size is not a reason to hold UPMC to a higher standard than other any other charity, but it is a reason to insist that UPMC live up to the same standards that the rest of charitable, non-profit organizations live by.” – State Rep. Erin Molchany

“Shutting out the competitor’s cardholders is an example of a business practice that is both unethical and inhumane. It is one of the most alarming things I have seen in all my years as a legislator. UPMC’s business practices are interfering with the health and safety of real people, people who we represent as elected officials. UPMC’s board and executive team have a mission, and a large part that mission is to provide care to those in need.”  – State Rep. Anthony M. DeLuca

“Our state Supreme Court justices have been explicit that any organization seeking to make its property tax-exempt must put the interests of the community before its own bottom line. Many of my constituents have asked me the same question that Pittsburgh is asking today – is UPMC a somewhat public charity, a mostly public charity, or is it truly a purely public charity as our state constitution requires?” – State Rep. Dan B. Frankel

“Today we are taking on this issue directly. UPMC’s income is largely exempt from taxes.  Yet, it is increasingly run like a for-profit company, paying its executives multi-million dollar salaries with perks, renting fancy offices and leasing corporate jets and helicopters, while jumping into new business activities, for-profit ventures, and overseas expansion.” – State Sen. Jim Ferlo

“Despite nearly one billion in profits over two years, UPMC pays many of its employees so little that they are forced to depend on public assistance to pay for basics like food and rent. And when UPMC workers speak out about improving their jobs, UPMC management tries to silence them. That’s not good for UPMC workers, and it’s not good for Pittsburgh’s middle class.” Pittsburgh City Councilman Daniel Lavelle

“Genuinely charitable nonprofit entities should enjoy the benefits of tax exemptions that are conferred under Pennsylvania law.  But entities that comport themselves like for-profit businesses at virtually every turn in order to amass gigantic profits should not be able to shift their tax burdens to the hardworking residents of this County simply by calling themselves ‘charities’ and referring to their profits as ‘surpluses.’” – County Councilman John DeFazio

“I commend Mayor Ravenstahl and the city of Pittsburgh for challenging UPMC’s non-profit status and for bringing this issue before the Court to determine whether UPMC truly deserves its current non-profit status.  UPMC should welcome the opportunity to provide transparency and prove to the public that they are truly non-profit, once and for all.” – State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana

“This is about fairness for the average Pittsburgh citizen and small business owner, who shoulder a greater burden of taxation for those organizations who receive the privilege of a property tax exemption. They deserve to know that all organizations are paying their fair share and truly deserve their tax exemptions.” – County Controller Chelsa Wagner

State legislator calls UPMC Business Practices Unethical and Inhumane.

On March 5th, State Representative Tom DeLuca sent a scathing letter to UPMC CEO Jeffery Romoff  in response to UPMC turning away Highmark insurance patients who subscribe to the Community Blue program – even those who wish to pay in cash in order to keep their existing doctor.

In his letter Mr. DeLuca calls this decision, “unethical and inhumane” and adds:

It is my understanding that UPMC has a Patient Bill of Rights. Item No. 13 of that document states, in part, that “a patient has the right to medical and nursing services without discrimination based upon source of payment.”

“This may be about business to you, but your business practices are interfering with the health and safety of real people, people who we represent as elected officials,” wrote Mr. DeLuca, who hopes to find a way through legislation to make this practice illegal.

Not only is this practice unethical, and in violation of UPMC’s own patients’ bill of rights; it represents one more reason why UPMC is not a real charity.

Read the full letter here.

Historic Day: City Officially Challenges UPMC’s Tax Exempt Status

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl Asks, “Is UPMC Really a Charity?”

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl Asks, “Is UPMC Really a Charity?”

Yesterday was a day for the history books. After months of educating our neighbors, two hearings, three canvasses and thousands of signatures on our Code of Conduct, we were thrilled and proud when our City announced its challenge to UPMC’s tax exempt status on the basis that they are not living up to their obligations as a charity and the tax exemptions that flow from that status. Congratulations to our City and to our movement!

“They’re not a charity,” Mr. Ravenstahl said. “They haven’t been operating as a charity, and it’s time that this community step up in that regard.” – Post Gazette

Over the last decade we have watched while UPMC executives built a corporate empire. They have closed down hospitals in underserved communities and opened them in affluent suburbs. They’ve turned away patients that carry their competitors’ insurance, they’ve paid top executives millions while service workers need food banks, and they’ve failed to pay their fair share to support vital public services like schools and public transportation. All while harassing employees who are exercising their right to form a union to advocate for quality, middle class jobs.

UPMC Needs To Start Putting The Strength And Health Of Our Community First. Sign Onto The Code of Conduct

You have been going door to door, talking to your neighbors, co-workers, friends and family about our movement for a stronger, healthier Pittsburgh. Because of your hard work, we have over 1000 members of our community that have signed on to our Code of Conduct.  Today those voices were heard, and   elected officials at every level of government have added theirs to demand that UPMC start acting like a real charity.

But we know we have to keep building this movement. Sign the Code Of Conduct And Hold UPMC Accountable

Yesterday was a great first step by the City toward finally holding UPMC accountable. This historic step would not have been possible without your help.  But as the Mayor said, this fight will be a long one. Let’s keep standing up to UPMC for a stronger, healthier Pittsburgh.

Together we can Make It Our UPMC.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl Asks, “Is UPMC Really a Charity?”

Volunteers Canvasing In East Liberty

Volunteers Canvasing In East Liberty

It’s the question we’ve all been asking. Does UPMC meet the standard for institutions of purely public charity? The City of Pittsburgh thinks not.

Pittsburgh – Today, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, flanked by elected representatives from the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and the Pennsylvania General Assembly, faith leaders and UPMC patients, announced the City of Pittsburgh is filing legal challenges to UPMC’s tax exemptions. UPMC is the largest beneficiary of charitable tax exemptions in both the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. All told, UPMC’s tax-breaks cost tax payers an estimated $204 million dollars in federal, state and local taxes in 2011.

UPMC, the region’s largest private landowner, employer, healthcare provider and recipient of charitable tax exemptions, has attracted increasing scrutiny into the validity of its status as a charitable organization.

Stakeholders from all over the region have questioned UPMC’s aggressive and predatory business practices, its vast tax-exempt property empire, and the closing of hospitals in underserved areas. In January, UPMC settled over 80 charges of violations of Federal labor law with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after a seven-month long investigation into allegations of a hostile anti-union campaign.  And just last week, UPMC told subscribers of a rival insurance company they could no longer see their UPMC doctors – even if they wanted to pay for care out of pocket.

“It has become clear to me that UPMC is not acting like a real charity. We can all see that. To say otherwise really strains credulity. Does a charity turn away patients because they have the “wrong” insurance card? Does a real charity make multi-millionaires of its executives? Does a real charity keep many of its employees living in poverty? Does a real charity put its mission to serve the community aside in the interest of making billions of dollars?” said Reverend David Thornton. “Our common sense tells us no. Our laws tell us no. Our city is taking a principled stand against its Goliath by filing this challenge and we must all make sure we sound our support loud and clear so the City continues to keep this issue is at the top of our community’s agenda.”

“I’m really proud of the City of Pittsburgh today. As a worker at UPMC, I know first hand how hard it can be to stand up to UPMC – inside the hospital and out. But we’ve seen what we can do when we stand together at work,” said Jamie Hopson, a patient care tech at UPMC Montefiore and nursing student. “Now we’re going to stand together with our patients, neighbors, friends and families to win a victory for our whole community.”

UPMC To Out-Of-Network Patients: There’s The Door

In the hospital giant’s latest move to consolidate its healthcare monopoly, UPMC has made clear it intends to turn away up to tens of thousands of patients simply because they are insured by Highmark.

UPMC, which has its own health insurance company, has begun turning away Highmark insurance patients who subscribe to its Community Blue program, an insurance program that caters to lower income people. UPMC won’t take people insured by Highmark even if the patient is willing to pay cash to stay with their UPMC doctors.

UPMC’s aggressive business tactics are not only uncharitable, they also go against UPMC’s own Patient Bill of Rights, which states:

A patient has the right to medical and nursing services without discrimination based upon race, color, age, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, source of payment, or marital, veteran, or handicapped status.

UPMC’s efforts to damage Highmark’s business by preventing its subscribers access to UPMC facilities is well known.

As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette put it in a March 4 editorial:  “UPMC professes to want competition, but its actions suggest nothing of the sort.”

UPMC should not be sacrificing patients on its quest for market dominance.

Our largest employer, landowner and charity needs to be accountable to the community, to workers and to patients. The UPMC Code of Conduct for a Strong, Healthy Pittsburgh lays out our standards for a healthcare system that puts the needs of community ahead of profits and monopoly status. A critical part of Code is that UPMC accept all patients, regardless of which insurance card they carry.

Together, we can Make It Our UPMC.

Over 1,000 Pittsburghers Have Signed On To Code of Conduct for a Strong Healthy Pittsburgh

UPMC Worker, Leslie Poston, gathering signatures in the North Side of Pittsburgh

UPMC Worker, Leslie Poston, gathering signatures in the North Side of Pittsburgh

Striking McDonald’s J-1 student worker, UPMC and Rivers Casino worker and local public transit activist kicked-off latest in series of actions to build grassroots movement to hold UPMC accountable.

On Saturday March 9th, dozens of Pittsburghers gathered on the Northside to keep building the movement to hold UPMC accountable to the community it is meant to serve. In just a few hours, over 400 Northside residents signed on to the Code of Conduct for a Strong, Healthy Pittsburgh.

Back in January, over 100 people marched through downtown Pittsburgh to deliver the Code of Conduct to elected officials and ask them to join the movement to make UPMC act like a real charity.

But it didn’t stop there. Since then, community supporters have been to the Southside, East Liberty and now the Northside to build a grassroots movement. The Northside canvass was the largest and most successful canvass yet.

“UPMC workers know better than anyone what happens when the largest employer around can pay poverty wages. Even after 10 years of working at UPMC I have to go to the food bank to put food on the table, and I’m not the only one,” said Leslie Poston, a unit secretary at UPMC. “This isn’t just bad for me and my co-workers, but if UPMC can get away with paying poverty wages, that means every working person in Pittsburgh is going to see less money in their paycheck. If our whole community stands up and makes UPMC act like a real charity and put Pittsburgh first like they’re supposed to, we’re all going to do better.”

Leslie was joined by several other speakers, including Fernando Divaguetto, a J-1 Cultural Exchange Student from Paraguay who along with his fellow cultural exchange students made national news last week when they went on strike to protest the exploitation of foreign students by McDonald’s. While McDonald’s is in the hamburger business and UPMC is one of the most prestigious medical systems in the country, they have something in common – paying the people who work for them poverty wages. In Pennsylvania, UPMC is third, just behind McDonald’s, in the number of employees who receive Medicaid.

 

March 9th: Make UPMC Act Like A Real Charity

Volunteers Canvasing In East Liberty

Volunteers Canvasing In East Liberty

Following our two successful community canvases, on the South Side and East Liberty in February, we are again taking our movement to city neighborhoods. Join us on Saturday, March 9th on the North Side, to make UPMC act like a real charity.

In January, Pittsburghers joined together to deliver our Code of Conduct for a Strong, Healthy Pittsburgh to our elected leaders and urged them to join us in holding UPMC accountable to the needs of our community.

We asked, does a real charitable hospital…

  • Close down Braddock Hospital just to open one across the street from a competitor?
  • Give executives multi-million dollar paychecks, private jets and marble bathrooms – while many frontline workers struggle to make ends meet?
  • Should they have a CEO who gave himself a 49% raise and now makes $6 million a year?
  • Threaten to shut its doors to 3 million area residents who carry the “wrong” insurance?
  • Take billions of dollars of property off the tax rolls while we make painful cuts to our schools and vital public services?
  • Aggressively oppose workers who are standing together to raise standards for all working people in our region?
  • Creating and delivering our Code of Conduct was just the beginning. We’re building a movement of our friends, families, neighbors and co-workers to make sure UPMC lives up to the law and acts like a real public charity.

What: “Making UPMC Act Like a Charity” Community Outreach Day

When: Saturday, March 9th, 10am – 1pm

Where: 1414 Brighton Rd, Pittsburgh 15212

We will provide hot drinks and lunch, but come dressed for the weather.

Can’t make it on Saturday?

You can join us online! Sign onto our Code of Conduct and share it with your friends and family.