Dear Governor Corbett and Attorney General Kane:

Dear Governor Corbett and Attorney General Kane:

Casey Swartz, Highmark subscriber cut off from my UPMC doctors during follow up care for thyroid cancer.

Casey Swartz, Highmark subscriber cut off from my UPMC doctors during follow up care for thyroid cancer.

I’m writing to ask you to stand up for Pittsburghers who are losing access to affordable healthcare as UPMC denies more and more patients care at our community hospitals.  I don’t know much about the “deal” mentioned in today’s news, but I do know that patients like me see no bargain in losing in-network care to our doctors as a result of UPMC bargaining with our health.

My name is Casey Swartz and in 2009, my midwife found a cancerous nodule on my thyroid. In the years that followed, my UPMC endocrinologist carefully managed my follow-up and saw me through intensive treatment during my first pregnancy. Then out of the blue, last October, my endocrinologist told me I’d have to find a new doctor. His office no longer accepted my Highmark insurance.

I am just one of the hundreds of thousands of citizens in our region who has Highmark insurance. And we are perplexed and disturbed by the decisions UPMC management and our elected officials are making about the hospitals we subsidize with our taxes, our charitable gifts and our healthcare premiums.

Every day patients like me are telling you what the disruption of care is costing us. Medical ethicists both here and across the country have criticized UPMC for forcing every UPMC doctor to violate their oath to put patients first. Local doctors who are not afraid of reprisal have said the same, and even those who are fearful of retaliation tell us in private that what UPMC is doing is wrong.

We are well aware that UPMC executives want us to avoid this problem by choosing an insurer who will have in network access, but that is, if I may be blunt, just bullying. We need in-network access to our hospitals and doctors on fair terms, not Jeffrey Romoff’s terms.

Why should we bring for-profit insurers into our market, insurers who need to pass on their shareholders’ dividends to us?

There is only ONE plan that puts patients first: affordable in-network access to all area hospitals for every resident, regardless of the color of our insurance card.

I am not alone in saying that I am alarmed to see that a “deal” might include further pushing more patients away from care at some of our largest community hospitals.

The people of this region built these hospitals with our taxes, our charitable gifts, our healthcare premiums. Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, tax breaks, the caring, the suffering and even the healing belong to us and we are being deeply wronged.

It’s clear that UPMC has lost sight of its mission to provide healthcare, and we need both of you to protect patients so that we do not fall victim to callous business negotiations that put our health at risk.

It’s time to put patients before profits and politics.

You have the power and responsibility to put patients first – and you must. Please protect in-network care for Pittsburgh.

Thank you very much,

Casey Swartz
Swissvale

Dear UPMC Board of Directors

"My husband and I have serious, chronic conditions that will require lifetime treatment with specialists. We are insured through my employer with an out-of-state Blue Cross Blue Shield plan that is administered locally by Highmark. We are already struggling to make ends meet. If we lose in-network access to our UPMC doctors, it will have a terrible domino effect on my family. I don't see how the UPMC Board can sleep at night."

“My husband and I have serious, chronic conditions that will require lifetime treatment with specialists. We are insured through my employer with an out-of-state Blue Cross Blue Shield plan that is administered locally by Highmark. We are already struggling to make ends meet. If we lose in-network access to our UPMC doctors, it will have a terrible domino effect on my family. I don’t see how the UPMC Board can sleep at night.”

On Monday June 23rd patients and caregivers went to the UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside Board of Directors meeting to demand in-network affordable access to all of UPMC’s doctors and hosptials regardless of the color of their insurance card.

The following letter was submitted to the UPMC Board of directors:

To The Board of Directors Presbyterian-Shadyside Hospital

Dear Members of the Presbyterian-Shadyside Hospital and UPMC Corporate Boards,

My name is Angela Vennare-Klein and my husband is Dennis Klein. We both have UPMC doctors and our hospital is UPMC Mercy.

Governor Tom Corbett and Attorney General Kathleen Kane have been meeting with you and Highmark executives to decide the future of patients in our region. You are talking about the future of hundreds of thousands of people.  It’s important that you hear not just from your bean-counters, but from the patients and caregivers of our region.

My husband and I are perhaps unusual in that we both have complex medical conditions. I have an incurable form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, that will require a lifetime of treatment and management.  Dennis is disabled and has acromegaly, a rare growth hormone disorder that will require regular maintenance of bloodwork every three to six months, a yearly scan and expensive monthly shots.

One way in which we are just like 1.6 million other people, however, is that we carry Highmark insurance. And like those people, we are perplexed and disturbed and even angry with the decisions that UPMC management is making, threatening to cut us off from in-network access to our our hospitals and doctors.

 Patient concerns about this upcoming crisis in care are falling on deaf ears.  

My husband and I deeply appreciate the care we receive from our UPMC specialists, but if we are forced out of network we will face financial ruin and lose critical continuity in our care.  We are not alone.  Thousands, if not millions, will face this with us.

Plain and simple, UPMC is being a bully.  The bottom line is we need in-network access to all the hospitals that we helped build with our taxes, our charitable gifts, and our healthcare premiums.  Anything less than that is immoral and unacceptable.

You have the power and the responsibility to do something and you must.  We are counting on you .

Thank you very much,

Angela Vennare-Klein
Beechview

Let’s really put patients first

Casey Swartz, Highmark subscriber cut off from my UPMC doctors during follow up care for thyroid cancer.

Casey Swartz, Highmark subscriber cut off from her UPMC doctors during follow up care for thyroid cancer.

In 2009, my midwife found a cancerous nodule on my thyroid. In the years that followed, my UPMC endocrinologist carefully managed my follow-up and saw me through intensive treatment during my first pregnancy. Then out of the blue, last October, my endocrinologist told me I’d have to find a new doctor. His office no longer accepted my Highmark insurance.

People in Pittsburgh are rightfully outraged by UPMC’s decision to deny hundreds of thousands of people in-network access to our doctors and hospitals. We are demanding that something be done. Right now Governor Tom Corbett and Attorney General Kathleen Kane are meeting with UPMC and Highmark to decide the future for thousands of patients like me. But Governor Corbett has already announced that a new contract between my doctor and my insurer is “off the table.” He just  wants folks like me to have “clarity” about how we’ll be hurt. He calls this putting patients first!

This is unacceptable for me, my family and for every patient in our region.

There is only ONE plan that puts patients first. Affordable in-network access to all area hospitals for every resident, regardless the color of our insurance card. Our tax-dollars, charitable donations, and healthcare dollars helped build UPMC – and we should have access to it.

Can you join me on Wednesday, July 25th at 11:30 am as we march from Governor Corbett’s office to AG Kathleen Kane’s? We are going to demand that patients really come first in any agreement between UPMC and Highmark.

Join Us:

Wednesday, June 25th – 11:30 AM
Governor Corbett’s Office
Piatt Place, 301 5th Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Let’s remind our elected leaders what their job is: to protect patients and our charitable assets, not bargain over the effects of an outrageous and unjust plan. It’s time to put patients before profits and patients before politics.

Together we can make it OUR UPMC

Casey Swartz
Patient

UPMC Physician: “Shame on the leadership of UPMC.”

I am a physician at UPMC. I treat indigent patients and paying patients, regardless of what insurance they have. I, and many physicians like myself at UPMC, find it morally reprehensible that a tax-exempt institution, whose growth and prosperity has been partly attributable to tax breaks, can deny the community (even paying patients) access to health care.Shame on the leadership of UPMC.

Dr. K – UPMC Physician

U.S. Secretary of Labor Meets with UPMC Workers

US Labor Secretary Tom Perez listened to workers’ stories in their struggle for fair wages and better working conditions that will strengthen Pittsburgh’s middle class and bring thousands out of poverty.

US Labor Secretary Tom Perez listened to workers’ stories in their struggle for fair wages and better working conditions that will strengthen Pittsburgh’s middle class and bring thousands out of poverty.

Today, U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez met with UPMC workers. Secretary Perez listened to workers’ stories in their struggle for fair wages and better working conditions that will strengthen Pittsburgh’s middle class and bring thousands out of poverty.

As Veronica Shields, who works as a pharmacy technician at UPMC Mercy Hospital, shared with Secretary Perez, “I have always wanted to be part of making people well. As a pharmacy tech, I make sure that patients get the medicine they need to heal. I love my job and I am proud of the work that I do. UPMC workers aren’t looking to be millionaires, but we believe we deserve enough to get by. But that is not what we get at UPMC. Right now, we worry about paying every bill and stay up at night thinking about what would happen if our car broke down. Many of my coworkers couldn’t handle a financial emergency like that.”

Veronica is not alone. Latasha Tabb, who works at UPMC Children’s Hospital, has said, “My husband and I have a young son and I feel like I’m fighting for his future. We need UPMC to do better so my child can have a chance at a good middle class life. Many of my coworkers struggle with making ends meet, and are working two jobs, or picking up as much overtime as they can, and still have to use food banks just to feed their families. It isn’t right that someone working full time hours at UPMC is living in poverty. UPMC has the ability to ensure that we can support our families, but instead it has chosen to hold our entire community back by paying poverty wages.”

Recently we have seen businesses and policymakers – from Seattle to Washington, DC – recognize what Pittsburgh knows: when workers are paid a living wage, the economy grows. Here in Pittsburgh, our largest employer has the opportunity to be a national leader in ending income inequality. By paying all of its workers a minimum of $15 an hour, UPMC could help lift thousands of workers out of poverty, provide millions in new tax dollars for Pittsburgh public schools, and drive up to $53.4 million in new economic activity in our region.

Reverend Rodney Lyde of Baptist Temple Church, who joined the meeting today, said, “It is time for UPMC to start living up to its responsibilities as Pittsburgh’s largest employer and tax exempt charity by using its power and wealth to help re-build struggling neighborhoods and lift workers into the middle class with good jobs for a strong and healthy Pittsburgh.”

Have you been denied care at UPMC?

UPMC is refusing to renew its longtime contract with Highmark—the region’s largest insurer—that expires at the end of the year. That means more than three million of us could lose access to the hospitals our tax dollars, charitable donations, and insurance premiums have helped build.

Already Denied Care? Share Your Story Here

I know first hand what it feels like to be constantly worried about UPMC cutting of access to my doctors. My husband and I both have severe medical conditions that need constant treatment. We are deeply concerned about having to switch doctors in the middle of our care.

Now UPMC is sending letters to even more patients letting them know that in a few months they too will lose access to affordable in-network access to their doctors they know and trust.

UPMC executives are using patients as pawns and gambling with our health to build a healthcare monopoly in our city. The time has come for all of us to raise our voices and tell UPMC to stop bullying patients with scary ad campaigns.  UPMC needs to put patients over profits.

Tell us how this is affecting you. 

Have you been turned away from your doctor or received a letter from UPMC letting you know that you are about to be locked out from affordable access? Add your voice to the growing number of patients who are speaking out against UPMC’s behavior. Share Your Story Here

Together we can Make It Our UPMC

Angela Vennare-Klein

Patient

Stop the UPMC lockout of patients with a competing insurance card

Lynn Kiesel is a 24 year old woman with spina bifida who recently found herself escorted out of UPMC Mercy by security and denied the MRI she needed for her care.

UPMC is refusing to treat patients like Lynn, who carries the “wrong” insurance card. The cost of being out of compliance with UPMC’s plan to dominate the healthcare market? No care.

“I was informed in a very public area that I would not be permitted to have my tests because of my Community Blue Highmark insurance,” she testified at a recent state senate hearing on healthcare access. “I was told I had to leave and was escorted out of the hospital.”1

Sign our open letter to the UPMC Board of Directors to ensure affordable access to all UPMC healthcare facilities

Our community is standing up to UPMC executives who are using patients as pawns in its plans to build a healthcare monopoly in our city. Dr. Dennis Gabos, a UPMC physician, is publicly calling on UPMC2 and the state legislature to hold UPMC accountable to its charitable mission. Gabos says:

“In 2013 we witnessed something unprecedented in my 26 years of medical practice. In violation of its own code of conduct, UPMC-Corporate locked out Highmark’s Community Blue patients, refusing to see them even when they desperately offered to pay cash for services”3

The time has come for the UPMC Board of Directors to enforce UPMC’s code of conduct and medical ethics by ensuring treatment for all patients in our community.

Sign our open letter to the UPMC Board and let them know you think it is time for them to put the strength and health of our community first.

Together we can Make it Our UPMC

In The News:

UPMC Refuses to attend hearing on healthcare access1

A Tale of Two UPMCs2
UPMC Doctor Criticizes corporation’s direction3
Dr. Gabos has bravely spoken for patients and colleagues