No Place for Politics; Our Job Is Care

By: Janet Tripodi

Health care in western Pennsylvania has become a political issue. And the governor and his advisors have made it so.

It was disappointing on many levels when newly seated Gov. Tom Wolf publicly bashed UPMC last week about our decision to terminate our Medicare Advantage Provider contracts in 2016. As a successful businessman, he should understand that a contract is a contract, and neither party can change the terms of a contract on a whim. That is exactly what Highmark started doing last spring when they decided the mutually agreed-upon rates for care provided at the world-class UPMC CancerCenter were no longer valid and they would only pay about 20 percent of the rates they had agreed to pay.So why, then, is Gov. Wolf taking this position? There’s no doubt that he is a very smart man. Perhaps he’s relied on the advice of his staff who are not giving him good counsel and who may have other motives.

Consider this:
• The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has been trying unsuccessfully for three years to organize some UPMC workers, contributed nearly a million dollars to his campaign.

• The former executive director of SEIU Healthcare PA is one of the governor’s senior advisors.

• Shortly after he took office, UPMC was urged by the Wolf administration to open our doors and allow the SEIU to organize our workers.

• The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette even pointed out in an April 9 editorial that Gov. Wolf’s recent order about homecare “read like a gift to organized labor, particularly the Service Employees International Union.”

• On April 11, Tribune Review reporter Adam Smeltz wrote“state Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati questioned whether the Wolf administration can mediate fairly between UPMC and Highmark. He believes Wolf’s staff is set on unionizing UPMC. ‘I don’t know what’s the disconnect with UPMC and the administration,’ said Scarnati, a Jefferson County Republican. ‘It troubles me that we have such a world-class organization very much getting a raw shake by the administration.’ ”

And today, April 14, the governor continued with his agenda against UPMC. In a Tribune Review article by Brad Bumsted and Adam Smeltz, Mr. Wolf said “UPMC’s treatment of its employees ‘doesn’t give you a warm and fuzzy feeling’ as the salaries and benefits of its frontline workers lag” — an opinion that he acknowledged came from “anecdotal” information he heard during his campaign and not from hard facts.

Then, he repeated these assertions in interviews airing on KDKA Radio today by hosts Larry Richert and John Shumway, Marty Griffin, and Mike Pintek.

Wolf’s actions are very troublesome, because they challenge and call into question the value of the work we do every single day. You can’t build a world-class health care system without dedicated employees at all levels. We are a service-driven organization — good service has been the reason for our growth, and our success has been achieved by dedicated employees.

As Jeffrey Romoff, UPMC’s president and CEO, so succinctly says: “The extraordinary and dedicated 62,000 staff members of UPMC who provide world-class care to the vast majority of the western Pennsylvanian community deserve much better from their Governor. We are proud of the work of our employees — and the care we provide each day to our patients and our neighbors — and we welcome the Governor to take a more careful look at us.”