Technically, the Korean War never ended.
Given the state of today’s U.S.-North Korea relations, that may not come as a surprise to some.
Still, while it’s been 66 years since the last shot was fired, the two countries actually are observing a cease-fire negotiated in the Korean Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953. That cease-fire, though, never evolved into an actual peace treaty.
Similarly, this week’s agreement between UPMC and Highmark doesn’t end the feud between the two health systems, each of which has balked in the past at accepting insurance provided by the other at in-network rates. It only staves off for a decade a scenario that, as of next week, would have initiated a prepay-in-full policy that Highmark customers had been told would take effect for them at most UPMC facilities.
Does this mean that history will repeat itself in June 2029? We hope not.
Rather, we encourage both sides to use the time to work out a permanent peace accord.
Even with the 10-year pact, questions remain. For instance, it applies only to a 29-county area in western Pennsylvania, and not to deals in the central part of the state and other regions that have their own expiration dates still ahead.
Some so-called “narrow-network” plans, which are exclusive to the network offering them, continue to be excluded under the new agreement, which also gives both health systems the right to continue to roll out such plans.
The threat of the June 30 expiration date of the former deal prompted many patients to seek new health care providers and health care plans. While most of those who did the latter will be able to switch back, if they so desire, at the start of their next enrollment period, the question is, should they? And patients who changed doctors are left to wonder whether they ought to continue with their new physician, or return to their former one?
We join with Attorney General Josh Shapiro in lauding UPMC and Highmark officials for reaching an agreement to preserve access to most patients.
But their work — and Shapiro’s, from an oversight standpoint — is not over. With a short-term resolution in hand, all parties need to head back to the negotiating table now — not 9 years and 11 months from now — to ensure that the fears of the last few months never surface again.
It won’t be easy. Except for this week’s agreement, UPMC and Highmark have presented themselves as arch-enemies to one another. Ten years is not a lot of time to change that.
The clock already is ticking.