Prices for health care coverage on Affordable Care Act exchanges nationwide are going up 25 percent, but in Pennsylvania that number is more than 32 percent and for some in southwestern Pennsylvania the increase will be nearly 50 percent.

After Highmark and UPMC requested rate hikes for 2017, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department approved even bigger hikes in an effort to bring stability to the market.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

One year after Pittsburgh’s Wage Review Committee released its report detailing the hardships faced by low-wage workers in the city, Councilman Ricky Burgess said there is still more work to do.

Burgess counted among the victories of the last year the unionization of workers at Allegheny General Hospital and UPMC’s pledge to raise wages for service workers to $15 per hour by 2021.

In addition, workers at four other hospitals in the Pittsburgh region will see starting wages increased by $15 per hour over the next three to five years.

Flickr user Travis Estell

When Erie native Ida Tarbell was investigating John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil Company more than a century ago, she had to crisscross the country to search through public records and interview sources in person.

Her 19-part series in McClure’s magazine, titled The History of the Standard Oil Co., is credited as the first example of investigative journalism and had a direct influence on the 1909 antitrust lawsuit that eventually broke up the company.

Keepingtime_CA / flickr

Watson, the computer known for beating Ken Jennings at Jeopardy, is now branching into health care.

Last month, IBM Watson Health partnered with UPMC to launch a new company called Pensiamo, with the goal of saving health care providers money by better utilizing supplies and services.

“The concept of Pensiamo was to provide some cognitive analytics or some artificial intelligence to help hospitals and health system better utilize the products that the patients need,” said Pensiamo Executive Vice President of Cognitive Solutions Mary Beth Lang.

Flickr user Peter Lynch

Pennsylvania is still more than a year away from having its medical marijuana system up and running, but local physicians are already thinking about how they will prescribe the drug.


A hike through Mt. Washington’s Emerald View Park next month aims to shed light on the resources available to those suffering from depression or mental illness.

It’s part of the WALKATOP charity hiking event on Sept. 11. Coordinators plan to raise funds for mental health programming and staffing at UPMC, as well as offer support, information and referrals to anyone seeking help.

hipponotized / Flickr

Five years ago, Dr. Lisa Pan had a patient whose depression was so severe that no form of treatment would take away his suicidal thoughts.

Courtesy UPMC

More than 400 people died from drug overdoses in Allegheny County last year. According to the Health Department, many of them were due to opioids, specifically heroin.

As public health officials continue to battle the opioid epidemic, health care professionals are looking for new ways to help patients transition from drug addiction to recovery.

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

When Conner Hagins was 9 years old, his father had a double bypass surgery.

While recovering, his father was given a teddy bear to hold against his chest while coughing or sneezing in order to help protect his chest wounds. But it was only cardiac surgery patients who were given teddy bears, Hagins found.

“From that moment it was almost a light bulb idea,” Hagins said.

Alan Levine / Flickr



The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has fined two health systems for illegally dumping medical waste in a landfill.

The state agency says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has been hit with $451,000 in fines and Allegheny Health Network has been fined $86,900. Officials say the state found 12 of UPMC's hospitals illegally dumped large quantities of needles, bloody dressings and body fluids into a Monroeville landfill.

UPMC Magee Women's Hospital

In a quiet, dimly-lit room of UPMC's Magee-Women's Hospital in Oakland, volunteer "cuddler" Donna Comfort held a tiny newborn in her arms. The baby was one of at least five in the hospital born dependent on heroin, prescription painkillers, addiction treatment medication or another form of opioid.

Flickr user jrgcastro

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has signed a letter of intent to pursue an affiliation with a north-central Pennsylvania hospital network.

Susquehanna Health and UPMC jointly announced the letter of intent Thursday.

The details of the affiliation have yet to be determined.

Susquehanna serves 11 counties through four hospitals, Divine Providence, Muncy Valley, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial and Williamsport Regional Medical Center.

Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon / Facebook

Running shorts will replace lab coats this weekend as 10 UPMC doctors take to the course at the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon this Sunday as part of an initiative to ensure runner safety.  Dr. Ron Roth, the Pittsburgh Marathon’s medical director and Dr. Aaron Mares, assistant medical director for the marathon, joined Essential Pittsburgh to discuss this innovative approach.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Dozens of service workers, students and families protested outside a McDonald's restaurant on Pittsburgh’s North Side Thursday.

William Boas led the crowd in chants by megaphone. 

He said fast food jobs aren't just for teenagers. 

“This McDonald's right here is open 24 hours a day," Boas said. "We don’t have to be the smartest people in the world to know that it takes adults to run that store. Right now, it’s a Thursday morning. Kids are in school.” 

Flickr user jrgcastro

Josh Malloy, 25, lives in East Liberty with his little brother and said his $12.50 per hour salary makes it difficult to keep up with the cost of living. 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Minimum starting salaries for entry-level positions at UPMC will jump from $11.73 an hour to $15 by 2021, officials announced Tuesday.

Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

As planning continues for Hazelwood’s new Almono development, city officials are expecting an uptick in commuters traveling from the neighborhood to Oakland, the heart of the city’s eds and meds economy.

UPMC / Inside UPMC

A fourth patient infected during the UPMC mold outbreak has died. The infection was contracted while the patient was being treated at UPMC’s transplant program. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Ben Schmitt, joins us to discuss this latest development.

Pitt Med Student Earns Spot On Forbes' 30 Under 30 List

Jan 26, 2016
Chris Murawski

University of Pittsburgh medical student Christopher Murawski’s interest in orthopedics came as an accident, literally. After sustaining several ankle injuries from his high school baseball team, Murawski began showing an interest in the treatments he was receiving, eventually earning himself a spot on a renowned UPMC doctor’s orthopedic team.  He’s been chosen as one of this year’s Forbes’ ’30 Under 30 2016’ in health care and shares his thoughts on the experience.

Balancing Privacy And Security On A Global Scale

Jan 26, 2016
Global Panorama / flickr

Public disclosures related to government surveillance capabilities and activities, and subsequent reforms, have brought the privacy versus security debate front and center. How should the U.S. balance privacy and national security? We'll talk with Sina Marie Beaghley, Senior International Policy Analyst for the Rand Corporation.

CDC Reports On UPMC Mold Case

Dec 23, 2015
Dave Nin / flickr

The Centers for Disease Control has issued a preliminary report into four cases of mold-related infections among UPMC transplant patients in 2014 and 2015. The four had undergone organ transplants that had compromised their resistance to infection and were diagnosed with mucormycosis, a rare and sometimes fatal mold-related infection. Three of the patients later died. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Ben Schmitt, who broke the story, joins us to discuss what was in the CDC's report.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council’s Wage Review Committee, spearheaded by Councilman Ricky Burgess, is recommending some of the region’s biggest employers increase their minimum wage.

Auntie P. / Flickr

The City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and area health and services organizations are collaborating on AIDS Free Pittsburgh, a three-pronged public health initiative.

“We’re going to normalize HIV testing," said Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department. "We’re going to make improvements in standardizing our linkages to care for those that are diagnosed, and we’re going to improve access to a variety of prevention tools.” 

Court Says UPMC Must Keep Rates Cheaper In Medicare Plans

Nov 30, 2015

A state Supreme Court decision means seniors and others in Pennsylvania enrolled in an insurer's Medicare Advantage plans won't have to pay comparatively higher rates in the coming years for services through the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The justices ruled Monday that about 180,000 people in Highmark's Medicare Advantage plans will pay "in-network" fees at least until June 2019, when a consent decree between the two health providers is set to expire.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

A new study out of the University of Pittsburgh found that a text message program that aimed to help young adults cut down on binge drinking worked six months after the program ended.

The study is in the journal PLOS ONE.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

The newly-dubbed UPMC Rooney Sports Complex will house the Pittsburgh Steelers practice facility for 15 more years as it undergoes an additional $10 million expansion this summer, UPMC and Steelers officials announced Tuesday.

“And of course the major piece of the puzzle will be the expansion of the training facility on the first floor, which will include an expanded weight room and conditioning room,” said current franchise President Art Rooney II.

Francis Southwick

Frances Southwick wanted to be a doctor for as long as she could remember.

As a kid, she collected old popsicle sticks to use as tongue depressors, volunteered in medical facilities and eventually ended up in medical school in West Virginia. Southwick did her residency at UPMC Shadyside including stints at a number of Pittsburgh hospitals.

hobvias sudoneighm

Skin lesions are a heath concern that many will face in their lifetimes, with 76,000 Americans being diagnosed every year with skin cancer. New research, blending technology and medicine, hopes to make the detection process easier and more accurate.

In collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, scientists at Pitt and UPMC have created a computer program that can scan photos of skin lesions and assess whether or not they will require further treatment.

Dispute Arises Over UPMC Mold Claims

Oct 1, 2015
Jon B / flickr

Last month, UPMC broke the news that it temporarily halted its transplant program following the discovery of mold and the sickening of several patients.

Tribune Review reporter Ben Schmitt wrote the original story on the incident, and says he has received incredible feedback from readers.  The question on everyone’s mind seems to be: are UPMC facilities not completely sterile?

UPMC Stops Transplants Following Mold Outbreak

Sep 23, 2015
Dr. Amesh Adalja / trackingzebra.com

Following a mold outbreak last week that infected four transplant patients at UPMC Presbyterian and Montefiore, the hospital system has temporarily halted their transplant program. Three of the four patients have since died, although it’s not been confirmed whether the infections were the culprit.  Pittsburgh-based infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja explained to Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer that mold is particularly difficult to contain because it’s so easy to spread.