They're at it again in Pittsburgh, where the four remaining acute-care hospitals in the once-mighty Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation empire are being sold to the only bidder.
Yet the latest chapter in the AHERF debacle is being played out under a veil of mystery, with executives refusing to discuss even the most basic details involving a vital not-for-profit community asset (See "Commentary," p. 49).
Anthony Sanzo, president of the umbrella organization for Allegheny General Hospital, Allegheny Valley Hospital, Canonsburg Hospital and Forbes Regional Hospital, says the proposal for the facilities "meets every criteria we wanted it to."
But Sanzo had nothing to say about the finances or other important terms in Western Pennsylvania Healthcare System's successful bid. Nothing about unfunded pension liabilities. Nothing about tax and debt liabilities. And what's this silly rumor that the merged health system wants to open a new medical school at Duquesne University as part of the deal?
What we do know is that Highmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Pennsylvania healthcare's version of the 800-pound gorilla, helped bankroll the deal, even though Highmark supposedly won't take an equity position or a governance role in the new organization.
This half-baked scenario of silence is equal parts arrogance and misguided thinking. One would think that with all the humiliation, embarrassment, recklessness and greed associated with the AHERF bankruptcy, survivors would be more forthcoming about their dealings.
From the looks of things, it appears just the opposite is true, beginning with last December's confidential memorandum seeking a financial angel for Allegheny University Hospitals-West.
Earlier this month, Catholic Health East backed out of the bidding for the group of four hospitals because it didn't like the criteria. What exactly scared off CHE is unclear, although the issue of pension liabilities might have been a factor.
Allegheny officials are preparing to present their West Penn merger plan to the federal court overseeing AHERF's $1.5 billion bankruptcy case. We can only hope some of the details begin dribbling out. Certainly the people of Pittsburgh deserve to know the facts.