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


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  1. Kathleen Munhall

    Excellent statement of these issues.
    It is abhorrent that both companies are subsidized by our taxes as “non profits”. This is the most egregious example of greed, arrogance and power hungry folks seen in Pgh. lately.
    On 6/30, I offered to pay cash for a follow up visit to get test results. The doc refused stating “UPMC will not permit” folks with Highmark to receive further services. Cash is more than any insurance reimbursement, so the issue is not just money, it is power. “Patient healthcare”? Hmm, maybe “no-patient revenue-care”?
    If both companies lost their 501(c)3 status, would they figure out how to provide services to all insured patients? Do they qualify for 501(c)3 now? What other city/state could they get away with this?