A new report by the American Economic Liberties Project considers the negative impacts of UPMC’s dominance over the region’s healthcare economy.
“Like the steel corporations of the last century, UPMC has used its power to depress wages, degrade working conditions, extract money from the public, and, ultimately, create a crisis for the communities in which it operates and in which we live,” write State Rep. Sara Innamorato (D-Lawrenceville) and U.S. Rep. Summer Lee (D-Swissvale) in their introduction to the report.
As a result, the report argues, the Pittsburgh economy has returned to something like how things were in age of the steel magnates.
"The names may be different, but in many ways, Pittsburgh and vast swathes of Allegheny County should still be considered company towns."
Lee and Innamorato allege that UPMC “has embedded itself into every nook and cranny of Western Pennsylvania’s healthcare system” through a decade of aggressive expansion, during which they more than doubled the number of hospitals in their network and became the state’s largest non-governmental employer.
This expansion, they say, has led to worse outcomes for workers, patients, and Allegheny County as a whole.
“The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the consequences of UPMC’s consolidation: Creating a healthcare system with too few workers, misappropriated resources, and ultimately, the inability to provide the standard of care, the community benefits, or the sort of workplace that Pennsylvanians demand and deserve.” write Innamorato and Lee.
The report calls for state and local leaders to strengthen and enforce antitrust laws meant to encourage economic competition and to investigate and reform UPMC’s tax-exempt status, among other recommendations.
“Lawmakers at all levels — federal, state, and local — have tools available to rein in UPMC and ensure that Western Pennsylvania workers, patients, and taxpayers are no longer propping up a system that doesn’t serve them at all,” says Pat Garofalo, Director of State and Local Policy at the American Economic Liberties Project.
This report criticizing UPMC’s dominance of the region’s healthcare market comes as UPMC acquires its fourth hospital in the Republic of Ireland.
A UPMC spokesperson declined to comment, saying they needed time to review the report, but noted, "at first glance this report uses many of the same basic data and erroneous statistical analyses that have been reported in the past and debunked.”