Pennsylvania AG, UPMC take spat to state’s highest court

The legal battle between the Pennsylvania AG and UPMC continues. (Getty/Joecho-16)

Pennsylvania’s attorney general is taking the legal fight to extend the consent decree between UPMC and Highmark to the state’s highest court. 

Meanwhile, the health system giant continues to contend he has no legal authority to push for a deal. 

AG Josh Shapiro filed a petition (PDF) to appeal the case to the state’s Supreme Court earlier this week, arguing that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is in violation of its charitable obligations by refusing to sign on to a modified version of the agreement 

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“These consent decrees protect the public interest and enforce the respondents’ charitable missions by requiring open and affordable access to their healthcare services through negotiated contracts,” Shapiro wrote. 

RELATED: UPMC, Highmark breakup making it hard to do enrollment 

UPMC and Highmark Health have been embroiled in a bitter rivalry for the better part of a decade over market share in both the greater Pittsburgh payer and provider markets. Their dispute began in earnest when Highmark acquired what is now Allegheny Health Network in 2011. 

The state offered a temporary solution to the disagreement—a multi-year consent decree that mandates each offer coverage for services provided at the other’s facilities. However, that deal is set to expire this summer. 

Shapiro filed suit against UPMC in February, with the goal of pushing it into an extended, modified consent decree. Highmark officials said they agreed to join the updated deal. 

UPMC countered, saying that Shapiro did not have the legal authority to force a new agreement between the two healthcare companies. The state’s Commonwealth Court ruled earlier this month that the consent decree will end June 30 as scheduled, because the deadline was set by the state’s Supreme Court

In a response filing (PDF) to Shapiro’s Supreme Court appeal, UPMC said the AG has a “total lack” of authority to force the deal, and also noted that state officials waited five years to act on extending it, waiting until the deadline. 

“In its current appeal, [the AG’s office] has tried to pour its old wine into a new legal bottle,” UPMC said. 

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