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Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro Calls UPMC's Actions This Week A 'PR Stunt'

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Leading up to a critical Commonwealth Court hearing on Monday, UPMC relented on barring Highmark Blue Cross-Blue Shield customers from in-network service at a few of its facilities like the Hillman Cancer Institute after the June 30th deadline.

So is this part of a legal strategy before the hearing?

"This has nothing to do with the Attorney General," UPMC spokesperson Paul Wood declared on Thursday. "That hearing next week has to do with a very narrow question."

But Attorney General Josh Shapiro sees it differently.

"UPMC, really for the first time, directly acknowledged their wrongdoing," said Shapiro.

In his first television interview on the subject in response to questions from KDKA money editor Jon Delano, Shapiro said UPMC's concessions are a direct result of his lawsuit

"None of this would have happened without our lawsuit," said Shapiro. "And I think it is also clear that if UPMC is serious they would stop firing off press releases to garner attention and instead actually commit this to writing and try to do this in a formal legal way and, to date, they have not done that."

Shapiro says no one should be fooled by what he calls UPMC's eleventh-hour actions.

"Before we are to meet them in court, all of a sudden they fire off a few press releases. I think the good people of western Pennsylvania are smart enough to see through that."

UPMC says it was only listening to its customers.

"We listened, and we heard these Highmark subscribers and, after all, they're our patients, UPMC patients that happen to have Highmark insurance," noted Wood.

"They talked about how Hillman has saved their life. They've talked about how if they are forced to go somewhere else they might die."

Shapiro has a different take.

"What I think is also clear is that this is a PR stunt."

Shapiro agrees that the hearing on Monday is a narrow legal issue, should the June 30th deadline be extended to all UPMC facilities and doctors are open to all Highmark customers.

And he's optimistic.

"I feel very confident in the law that the consent decree can be extended, but make no mistake whatever happens in this hearing, we're not going away."

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