PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The battle continues to heat up between UPMC and Highmark.
On Friday, the UPMC board voted not to extend Highmark's contract when it expires in 2014.
UPMC brought out a big ad campaign Sunday and the big guns to drive home the point that UPMC will do what it has to do to protect and preserve its business.
"The people caught in the middle are the patients," says John Acquafondata, of Bloomfield.
John and his wife are caught in the perfect health care storm.
She worked at UPMC, he worked at Highmark - West Penn. All of their doctors were UPMC. Now she's retired and they're both with Highmark after switching all of their doctors.
It's the only thing they could afford.
"Doctors are doctors; they do very well on both sides of the fence. They're going to take care of the patients," said Acquafondata.
UPMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steve Shapiro was working in his lab Friday; convinced the decision not to have any relationship with Highmark is good for consumers.
"This is the best thing that would happen. We have two payer, provider health care networks competing on quality and cost. There are many insurance options for patients who have to go to our system, to their system, and this will keep cost down and improve quality of care," said Dr. Shapiro. "This is really what health care reform is about."
Highmark strongly disagrees.
In a statement, spokesman Aaron Billger says:
"We are sorry that UPMC is so afraid of competition that they are willing to deny access to hundreds of thousands of Highmark subscribers. UPMC, as a pure public charity and in their monopolistic position, should not dictate where consumers receive their healthcare based on their insurance coverage."
For UPMC, the discussion is over, telling folks to choose their provider as soon as possible.
"We think people need to start making these decisions now, particularly the employers where it will take a while," Dr. Shapiro said. "We don't think employers are going to get in the way of their patients ability to see any doctor they want, so they'll have additional choices, such that they're be able to see any doctor in any system possible."
Right now, there are tens of thousands of Highmark subscribers that have access to UPMC doctors. They will not have that access when the current agreement expires. That happens at the end of next year.
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