Highmark Inc. and the West Penn Allegheny Health System believe that their affiliation will provide an affordable choice for health care services and will continue to provide community access for health care.
“Today is an important first step to ensuring the continued viability of the West Penn Allegheny Health System and a choice of health care services in our region,” Dr. Kenneth R. Melani, Highmark’s president and chief executive officer, said in a news conference to announce the affiliation. “We are preserving a vital not-for-profit community asset.”
Highmark yesterday provided a $50-million grant to West Penn Allegheny, enabling the health system to sustain and strengthen its West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield and Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville. According to Highmark, the funding also ensures continued delivery of quality medical services by the entire system, including Canonsburg General Hospital in Washington County.
Melani said these hospitals are important to the people in neighborhood communities, surrounding businesses and suppliers. The management and boards of directors of Highmark and WPAHS will continue discussions in the weeks ahead to finalize a definitive agreement.
“It’s important to have a second (health care) system and have options,” Melani said, in reference to UPMC, the largest health care provider in the region. “For consumers, we want to preserve their choices. For physicians and other health care providers, we want to ensure multiple patient referral options. This affiliation will help preserve those very options.”
Highmark is making a $475 million commitment over four years that will include $75 million to fund scholarships for students attending medical schools affiliated with WPAHS and to support other educational programs in the health professions. The health system is joining with Temple University in Philadelphia to start a four-year medical school in Pittsburgh, Melani said.
The $75 million for scholarships for medical school students and other educational programs will address the shortage of physicians in the region and help West Penn Allegheny retain doctors.
“West Penn Allegheny has been recognized nationally for its leading doctors and nurses, who provide high-quality, personalized care. However, there is no doubt that we have lacked the capital necessary to deliver on our full potential,” said David L. McClenahan, West Penn Allegheny’s chairman of the board. “We share a common goal with Highmark to focus on the patient experience, improve health care and ensure choice for both those seeking care and those seeking employment in the health care sector in our region.”
According to Highmark, the planned affiliation is the first step in Highmark's effort to develop alternative health care options that offer care at a lower price and more coordinated and patient-driven delivery of medical care.
“It is critical to the economic and financial health of the community that Western Pennsylvanians have a choice of health care providers and that we preserve strong and valuable community institutions like the West Penn Allegheny Health System,” Melani said.