Congresswoman Summer Lee and State Representative Sara Innamorato release American Economic Liberties Project report on the harms of UPMC’s monopoly power

Jan 19, 2023
Press

Pittsburgh, PA

Policy recommendations call for every level of government to rein in anti-competitive behavior, ensure workers have a voice, remove barriers to seeking better options, and make sure UPMC lives up to its obligations as a non-profit

Video of the press conference is available HERE

Congresswoman Summer Lee and State Representative Sara Innamorato released a report authored by the American Economic Liberties Project (Economic Liberties) Thursday that lays out the effect UPMC’s monopoly and monopsony power have on hospital workers and patients in the Pittsburgh area. 

The report shows that UPMC’s anti-competitive behavior is contributing to the ongoing workforce crisis in Pittsburgh hospitals by limiting where hospital workers can work, how much they can make, and how they can advance their careers – all while undermining the quality of care patients receive. In a survey conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh last spring, 93 percent of hospital workers surveyed said that they think of leaving their jobs every month and 90 percent reported not having the staff for the workload they are given.

“When a hospital system like UPMC dominates a local market, it suppresses wages, degrades staffing and working conditions for all hospital workers, and undermines the quality of care for patients. The only solution is to reset the balance of power by ensuring workers can form a union and bargain for better conditions, prevent anti-competitive behavior by the hospital itself, and ensure that all non-profit hospitals live up to their legal obligations,” said Pat Garofalo, Director of State and Local Policy at the American Economic Liberties Project. “Pennsylvania lawmakers have an opportunity to do just that with the suite of reforms suggested today.”

Congresswoman Lee and Representative Innamorato are co-conveners of the Pittsburgh Hospital Workers Taskforce that held a public hearing in September where dozens of Pittsburgh hospital workers from both major hospital systems testified to the severity of the ongoing workforce crisis. Following the hearing, Congresswoman Lee and Representative Innamorato worked with Economic Liberties to compile policy recommendations for federal, state, and local governments to keep health systems like UPMC from abusing their market dominance to the detriment of workers and patients.

Congresswoman Summer Lee said, “The reason my community in Braddock saw our only hospital and our largest employer shut down back in 2010 is the same reason why Pittsburgh is facing a hospital staffing crisis today — the same reason why our nurses and health aides are struggling to bargain for dignified wages and safer conditions — the same reason our doctors are trapped by non-compete contracts, and the same reason my constituents are being ripped off by soaring health and cheated out of their tax-dollars: UPMC’s monopoly power has gone too damn far. We have the power to stand up for our hospital workers and patients  — and I’m ready to use every federal, state, and local tool to hold UPMC accountable so Western PA has the affordable health care we’ve deserved all along.”

A key recommendation of the report is for Pennsylvania to pass the Open Markets Act, a model piece of state antitrust legislation that Rep. Innamorato announced she would be introducing in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The legislation would give the state Attorney General more oversight into hospital mergers and prevent health systems like UPMC from monopsonizing labor markets.

“We can end the workforce crisis in our hospitals if we hold UPMC up to the standards we expect of non-profit charitable institutions. It’s time we put an end to UPMC’s anti-competitive behavior that puts profits over patients. I will work with anyone in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, or Washington who is committed to bringing a level playing field to our healthcare system and giving hospital workers a voice in the decisions affecting them and their patients,” said Representative Sara Innamorato.

The report is available on the American Economic Liberties Project website at https://www.economicliberties.us/, and a video of the press conference with Congresswoman Lee and State Representative Innamorato is available here.

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