Pittsburgh heavyweights call on board to publicly back UPMC's split with Highmark

Former members of UPMC's board are calling the current board's bluff: They want directors to put their support for the pending UPMC-Highmark split in writing, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In a long-running dispute, UPMC and Highmark, both based in Pittsburgh, entered into a consent decree in 2014 that required UPMC to give patients with Highmark insurance in-network access to UPMC facilities. The five-year consent decree is set to expire June 30. However, several lawsuits regarding patient access are still being decided in Pennsylvania courts that could change that deadline. Most recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sent a case about the deadline of the decree back to the lower courts.

Now, two former board members, regarded as "two of Pittsburgh's mightiest and most measured power brokers" by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, want UPMC's current board to publicly back the decision to end in-network access for Highmark patients. They believe the board is simply acquiescing to UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff.

Here are their statements:

  • Paul O'Neill, former U.S. Treasury secretary and former chairman and CEO of Alcoa, spoke to the Post-Gazette and gave the UPMC board this message: "Don't hide behind the cloak of the board. The individual board members should send certified letters to the [Post-Gazette] saying 'We are responsible for the current policy and we think it's the right thing to do.'"
  • Jim Rohr, former chairman and CEO of PNC Bank, said, "Who does Jeffrey Romoff answer to? It's supposed to be his board. Theoretically, by allowing him to go forward with this, they're saying they're approving everything he does. They should put that in writing!”

Both Mr. O'Neill and Mr. Rohr disapproved of the board dynamic, according to the report. Mr. O'Neill called Mr. Romoff "the evil person at the top of all of this," and the board chairman "an aider and an abettor." 

Mr. O'Neill provided similar statements to local TV station Pittsburgh's Action News. UPMC spokesman Paul Wood responded via Pittsburgh's Action News: "Mr. O'Neill's harangue against UPMC is misguided and uninformed. He served on the UPMC Board for only a very short time more than 15 years ago and he is simply out of touch with the current state of UPMC."


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