Chalk Another Win For Corbett

Tim McNulty
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

We meant to write this yesterday, but before we forget: chalk up another win for Gov. Tom Corbett and his behind the scenes negotiating style with UPMC & Highmark over a feud affecting people across Western Pennsylvania.

The low-key public style matched with hard work privately paid off two months ago in the governor’s role in getting Shell Oil to place its $1 billion chemical “cracker” plant in Monaca. In that case Corbett quietly worked execs with a Steeler game while also pouring over Google Maps at the governor’s mansion. And like that announcement, it’s not clear what will happen in the long run — some analysts say the hospital/insurer deal is only a temporary band-aid and will ultimately lead to higher prices for customers .

But Corbett was still key in getting a deal reached, as even the Senate’s top Democrat acknowledged. From Bill Toland:

On April 2 — the day after then-Highmark CEO Ken Melani was fired — Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, Mr. White and Mr. Costa, along with Annmarie Kaiser (Mr. Corbett’s secretary of legislative affairs) and Todd Shamash (the governor’s deputy chief of staff and health care expert), met with UPMC and Highmark officials.

Mr. Costa said the meeting was instrumental from a political standpoint, although it didn’t stir any breakthroughs from a business standpoint.

“That meeting helped move it forward,” he said. “We needed the support of the administration to extend [the contract] longer than Jan. 1, 2014.” And the legislators needed the weight of the governor’s office to show the parties, particularly UPMC, that the Legislature was serious about some of the bills on the table, one of which would have forced the two parties into binding arbitration.

“Quite frankly, the governor’s desire to see this brought to closure was key,” Mr. Costa said.

While neither the legislators nor the governor presented a “stick,” or threatened any hard deadlines, it was important for both Highmark and UPMC to know that “we were prepared to move on some legislation,” perhaps by the end of May, Mr. Costa said.

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