Officials, lawmakers to discuss future of community hospitals |

Officials, lawmakers to discuss future of community hospitals

Officials from Highmark and UPMC will appear on Aug. 1 at a hearing in Westmoreland County to examine the future of community hospitals.

State Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, will host a hearing by the Senate Majority Policy Committee at Westmoreland County Community College at 11 a.m. in Commissioners Hall.

Among the officials testifying will be Deborah Rice, Highmark executive vice president, and Daniel J. Lebish, the company's executive vice president of provider services.

Appearing for UPMC will be Dr. Marshall Webster, president of the physician services division and University of Pittsburgh Physicians, and attorney Thomas McGough Jr., the system's chief legal officer.

Also in attendance will be Robert Rogalski, Excela Health CEO; James Breisinger, chairman of Excela's board; and A.J. Harper of the Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania.

The committee is chaired by Sen. Ted Erickson, a Republican representing Delaware and Chester counties.

The senators are gathering information about the potential impact of the competition between UPMC and Highmark on smaller community systems such as Excela Health and Uniontown and Highland hospitals in Fayette County, all facing competition from the region's two largest health care providers.

Ward said lawmakers are concerned about the community hospitals because they can't compete financially with larger health care systems.

“It's like they're a big bully,” Ward said, referring to Highmark and UPMC. “They have all the money. They're buying land using shell companies. Why can't they just say who they are? They're taking control of the whole world in Western Pennsylvania.

“We want them on the record about what they're doing,” she added. “At the end of the day, they're going around and buying up physician practices and land all with the goal of controlling the health care market.”

Highmark has spent $32 million during the past eight months acquiring properties from Butler to Washington County. It has purchased numerous physician practices and courted physicians affiliated with Excela.

Highmark, which is acquiring the West Penn-Allegheny Health System, has been locked in a turf battle with UPMC over physicians, patients and locations as they expand their reach beyond Allegheny County. Both systems have opened hospitals in Monroeville, challenging Excela's market share in the western end of Westmoreland County. Excela has countered by buying a shopping center in North Huntingdon and expanding a medical mall it operates there.

Investment ratings giant Moody's reports that Excela has a 60 percent share of the market but faces increased competition from Highmark and UPMC, in addition to other revenue challenges.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.