PITTSBURGH - The separation of UPMC and Highmark could have an impact on local seniors.
Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner and other advocates admit this is an 11th hour effort to resolve what's been a years-long battle between the two health care giants, but they're hopeful a campaign of concerned citizens could force legislators to act.
"If I had to pay up front for my two week stay at Shadyside, I would be looking at around $200,000," said Judy Hays, of Crescent Township.
She's 75 years old and battling a rare form of leukemia.
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While UPMC and Highmark have gone through a lengthy separation, patients using Medicare and CHIP were still allowed to receive covered treatment.
Those protections expire at the end of June, leading Wagner to create a new website called Healthcare PGH, which advocates for lawmakers in Harrisburg to act.
"When they're doing things in such a predatory manner, particularly when they're so called charities, to me it's not up to Highmark or UPMC. It's really up to the government to make sure people's rights are upheld," Wagner said.
Wagner told Channel 11 the website will act as an online petition, but also allow patients to share their story.
"The most important thing is that we get to the end place where there's justice, so people here can see the doctors and the care givers that they choose," she said.
It leaves patients like Hays hopeful she won't be left choosing between her doctor and her money.
"You can have a carrier say, 'We're not going to take you, you're a Medicare patient under Highmark.' It's a very difficult situation to be in," Hays said.
HAPPENING NOW: @AC_Controller Chelsa Wagner is holding a news conference on the launch of a new site for concerned residents on the impending split between UPMC and Highmark pic.twitter.com/uDRRKTDkCQ— Aaron Martin (@WPXIAaronMartin) January 17, 2019
Channel 11 contacted both Highmark and UPMC for comment on the initiative.
A spokesman for Highmark told Channel 11 they will continue to treat all patients and negotiate in good faith with insurance companies to provide in-network access.
A UPMC spokesman said the split benefits patients by adding more competition and keeping insurance costs lower than anywhere else in Pennsylvania.
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