AG Kathleen Kane cites Pittsburgh in opposing Harrisburg health care merger
Attorney General Kathleen Kane doesn’t want Harrisburg to become like Pittsburgh.
Citing the dominance of Pittsburgh health care giant UPMC in Western Pennsylvania, Kane announced Tuesday she opposes the proposed merger of the Harrisburg region’s largest hospital systems .
“We have learned the hard way in Pittsburgh what happens when a health system has a large market share,” Kane said.
UPMC, the largest non-government employer in the state, controls about 60 percent of the hospital market in Allegheny County. UPMC officials declined to comment.
Kane’s office and the Federal Trade Commission have joined to oppose the merger of PinnacleHealth System and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Penn State-Hershey and PinnacleHealth have planned a merger for more than a year, saying it would yield assorted efficiencies that would control costs and result in higher-quality, better-coordinated health care in the midstate.
The two entities reacted to the FTC’s stance Tuesday morning, saying they disagree the merger would hurt consumers, but it will take them a few days to decide if they will push forward against the opposition.
The FTC and attorney general, which have similar approval roles and often collaborate, are expected to soon file a formal court complaint. Kane said in a news release the complaint will seek a restraining order and injunction to halt the merger pending the outcome of a hearing.
A news release from Kane’s office said, in part: “The continued competition between Pinnacle and Hershey will ensure that the greater Harrisburg area will continue to have a vibrant and competitive health care market.
Kane’s office has opposed a proposed $80 million merger between UPMC and Jameson Health System in New Castle. The state’s opposition has prompted cash-strapped Jameson to seek other partners, while having to cut programs and services. Jameson officials have said UPMC remains the best option because the health care giant would help pay off debt, improve old facilities and purchase new medical equipment.
Kane’s office said the Penn State-Pinnacle merger would control approximately 64 percent of the Harrisburg health care market. That would likely lead to increased health care costs and reduced quality of care for more than 500,000 local residents and patients, according to the release.
“The complaint alleges that Penn State Hershey and Pinnacle compete vigorously on price, quality of care, and services provided, both for inclusion in commercial health plan networks and to attract patients from one another. Competition is particularly intense in Dauphin County, where Penn State Hershey and Pinnacle operate the only three hospitals.”
David Wenner, a reporter for The Patriot-News and PennLive.com in Harrisburg, contributed to this report.