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Get answers about our merger with UPMC
Throughout the process of finding an affiliation partner, we have had calls, e-mails and visits from community members with questions and concerns. We have gladly answered them one-on-one and we took their input into account.

These channels remain open and people are still taking advantage of them every day: We have launched this page to offer yet another way to get answers.

Before submitting your question, please review the frequently asked questions below.

To submit your question, click here.

Frequently asked questions:

Q. I have Highmark insurance. Will I still be able to receive care at UPMC Altoona even after UPMC’s contract with Highmark expires on Dec. 31, 2014?

A. Yes. As UPMC has stated all along, UPMC welcomes negotiations and expects to reach agreements with all insurers in this market, including Highmark. The Highmark-UPMC contract expiration does not affect communities where UPMC is a sole provider, such as Altoona and Bedford.

Q. If Highmark subscribers are receiving care at UPMC Altoona and need to be transferred to a UPMC tertiary care facility in Pittsburgh for necessary higher level of care, will UPMC still provide the care and accept the Highmark reimbursement?

A. Yes. Access to UPMC will not be the issue. The issue will be how Highmark chooses to reimburse subscribers who prefer to go to UPMC or who need to go to UPMC for necessary tertiary care, and to what extent Highmark will try to steer patients away from the preferred UPMC hospitals and doctors and into their own system.

Q. I currently have Highmark. So all of my questions about coverage have been answered very well on your FAQ page. How about other plans, such as United Health Care. Will your hospital accept those?

A. Currently, UPMC Altoona is a participating provider with United, Aetna, Cigna, HealthAmerica, Highmark, UPMC Health Plan, and other smaller plans. We have no plans to alter our current relationships with these insurers.

Q. Why was a merger necessary?

A. With the significant challenges and financial pressures in health care today, the board of directors of Altoona Regional saw that at some point the health system would not be able to continue offering existing services or keep up with ever-advancing and highly expensive technology.

People would be traveling to Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, or Danville for procedures they receive here now. This would have meant a loss of jobs in the community, not only at the hospital but at companies that supply the hospital with goods and services.

After much research and discussion, board members determined that the most prudent option was to affiliate with a larger system. UPMC — one of the top medical centers in the world — has the resources necessary to not only keep existing services here but keep pace with advances in medicine and bring more-advanced services to the Blair County region.

That means people can stay here for more services. And, as the hospital becomes a regional hub for UPMC, we anticipate being able to add jobs.

Q. Who made the decision?

A. The board represented the community in this process. Board members are responsible for ensuring the future of health care in our region and have the intimate knowledge necessary to perform that task effectively and efficiently. Having said that, we gladly answered questions from community members throughout the process and took their input into account.

Q. Why was UPMC chosen?

A. UPMC is a world-class academic medical center and is consistently ranked in the prestigious U.S. News & World Report annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals.

As stated above, UPMC has the resources necessary to not only keep existing services here but keep pace with advances in medicine and bring more-advanced services to the Blair County region.

It offers a relationship that will enable UPMC Altoona to further enhance our quality of care and breadth of medical services. We also will gain new access to capital, outstanding technology, science, innovation, and expertise.

UPMC will invest $250 million for capital improvements and equipment to provide the most modern technology and services possible for you. UPMC has made an additional commitment of $10 million to the hospital’s foundation.

It also plans to make UPMC Altoona a hub for referrals from the region, which would grow the system and add jobs.

Through this world-class partnership, the communities served by UPMC Altoona will benefit from cost-effective health care of the highest quality, job opportunities, and even greater civic responsibility.

Q. Will we lose local governance of our hospital?

A. Local board governance will continue. Two-thirds of the board will be appointed by the current Altoona Regional board. Successors will be appointed by a majority of these directors on a self-perpetuating basis. One-third will be appointed by UPMC.

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