Allegheny County employees no longer have to wonder about their health care options for 2015.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced Tuesday that the county will exclusively retain Highmark for health care coverage through December 31st, 2015 - even if Highmark and UPMC are unable to reach an agreement.
“When we entered into a four-year contract with Highmark …about a year and a half ago, that was through 2013, ‘14. ‘15 and ‘16,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re making sure we’re committing that in ’15, regardless of what happens, we are maintaining our relationship with Highmark.”
UPMC Health Plan and Aetna also bid for the contract - and both were finalists - but Fitzgerald said Highmark had the best value for both the county employees and taxpayers.
He said he hopes to make it clear to UPMC that the county wants to see an agreement reached between the two.
He said the 6,700 county employees can utilize the Allegheny Health Network, regional community hospitals and providers across the country such as Johns Hopkins and the Cleveland Clinic even if the contract between UPMC and Highmark expires.
“Our employees and other employees will have access to absolutely excellent care, that’s not the issue,” Fitzgerald said. “The issue is we’ve got to make sure that people are willing to sit down and negotiate and work things out, work out a contract that makes sense for the community, for individuals, for the businesses, for the institutions that do that.”
He said Allegheny County employees have benefited from the relationship between Highmark and UPMC, and they hope they can continue to do so in the future.
“We’re all at a point, not just this county and our employees, but throughout this community where this relationship…could end,” Fitzgerald said. “We hope that does not occur, we’re hopeful that both sides, UPMC and Highmark, will get together and negotiate for the benefit of this entire community.”
According to Fitzgerald, the county employees will receive a collective $10 million reduction in their premiums in 2014 and another $10 million in 2015.
But he said this move was not just about the employees - he hopes it benefits all of Pennsylvania.
“So that we’re competitive in respect to business we can provide the services that our citizens need and have good access to good insurance and good providers,” Fitzgerald said. “And that’s really what this is about.”