UPMC has zero employees, huge balls.


Groups. Subsidiaries. Conglomerates. Amalgamation. Brain explosion.

Let’s have a quiz. Are the following excerpts about UPMC from a Post-Gazette article or an article from the satirical news site The Onion:

  • But UPMC itself? “We don’t have employees,” Mr. Pietragallo said.
  • Mr. Wood said he sees no contradiction when UPMC claims it employs 55,000 people in marketing and business materials — and no one in court.
  • He did not know which subsidiary employed him nor UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff.

Of course they’re from the Post-Gazette because this is about UPMC and it seems lately UPMC sees the border of Ridiculous and says, “Let’s just step over that line and head fully into the Territory of ABSOLUTE BONKERS whose capital city is Loophole Heaven.”

As a refresher, UPMC is being sued by the City of Pittsburgh to have its charitable organization status revoked. This means they would no longer be exempt from property and wage taxes. UPMC is now claiming that since it technically has no employees, it cannot be sued for wage taxes. No wages. No wage taxes. No lawsuit. Magic! [throws confetti]

UPMC has clearly been protecting itself from such a lawsuit for years in that it seems to indeed pay all employees through one of its 37 subsidiaries — even their corporate employees who have no association with any specific hospital. As one UPMC corporate-employed reader put it, “My badge says ‘UPMC Corporate Services,’ but my paystub says Presby.”

That person does not work at UPMC Presby, but his paystub says he’s paid by that subsidiary, certainly lending support to UPMC’s claim it has no real employees — just 55,000 people scattered around 37 subsidiaries and therefore, the city’s lawsuit should be thrown out.

I assume the entirety of corporate upper-management at UPMC walks around in shirts that say, “Keep Calm and Loophole On.”

I get this is how the corporate world operates, but in this case UPMC is being beyond absurd to the point that it is almost insulting to the residents of the city of Pittsburgh and the employees of their 37 subsidiaries, of which Jeffrey Romoff doesn’t even know which is issuing his seven-figure paycheck, apparently.

Here’s why it’s insulting and absurd. Here’s a snapshot from the I-990 form via Guidestar.org that “UPMC Group” filed in 2012 which showed a reported income of $7.7 billion:


How can UPMC claim to have zero employees and that their widely self-reported 55,000 number is just a “marketing number,” when they officially filed with the Internal Revenue Service claiming they employ 52,000 as a group?

0 = 52,000?

Is this new math? Did they forget to regroup? Carry the billion? Solve for X where X = “How the hell can we get ourselves out of this mess?”

You can have zero employees … or you can have 55,000 employees. You cannot have BOTH zero and 55,000 employees and then just choose which number suits you best for certain circumstances. I mean loopholes are great and all, but at some point, you’re just trying to defy the laws of mathematics and possibly physics and for all I know, gravity.

I’m not a corporate accountant. I’m not a lawyer. I’m a Pittsburgher. And as a Pittsburgher and a human with a brain in her head, I am qualified to tell you that this is farcical and insulting and it will only serve to generate even greater ill-will toward UPMC than currently exists among the public who already imagine UPMC as King Kong squashing any puny entity that dares approach its territory.

Who knows what will hold up in the court of law, but in the court of public opinion, this “we have no employees” defense will not stand. It will serve only to anger, because this is how we non-accountant, non-lawyer Burghers are looking at it:

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 11.17.11 AM

That or, “I actually have no hands. It’s all a mirage.”

Stop this nonsense and get to work proving you’re a charity, UPMC. Because if you really are, this creative legal maneuvering wouldn’t even be necessary.

Math is hard. The truth is easy.


  1. Butcher's dog
    October 22, 2013 2:16 pm

    Sadly, lobbying money will continue to flow to keep this all going. Common sense and politics have never had much in common. No point in expecting their marriage anytime soon.

  2. NewBurgher
    October 22, 2013 2:28 pm

    Having worked for a number of major corporations, I can attest that the “employer” showed on my direct deposit stub changed almost every year, depending on how the org chart was reconfigured for that year. Things were spun-off, acquired, services were incorporated into their own subdivisions. So I’m not at all surprised by what you wrote, and I doubt the courts will be either. And their tax return? Each subsidiary does not file a separate return, they typically file what they call a consolidated return, so I’m sorry, it then does appear that 0=55,000 :) I’m sorry Zima isn’t available anymore, I would drink one with you to alleviate this aggravation.

  3. jonathan
    October 22, 2013 2:30 pm

    Well, come on. A commerical would sound totally ridiculous like this…

    “UPMC, by employing the least amount of people in the region, 0, we stand to help your community…”

    So, naturally, you just kind of make up a number.

  4. Stacey Powers
    October 22, 2013 3:16 pm

    INFURIATING!! I am going to have to dig up my old “UPMC” W2 forms to see what they say.
    Oh, and don’t forget this little tidbit: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/why-are-hospital-ceos-paid-so-well/280604/

  5. Andy W.
    October 22, 2013 3:25 pm

    That. Is. Church.

  6. Suzie-Q
    October 22, 2013 3:40 pm

    After the horrendous shooting at UPMC Western Psych…the great compassionate caring non profit awarded the employees who were absolutely traumatized by this event exactly ZERO days off. They had to use their sick days/vacations days and were expected to return to work.

    All interviewed by the CEO who impressed upon them that all was well…..What a bunch of B.S.

    I have heard over and over…UPMC treats their employees TERRIBLY..oh wait…no employees…perhaps only indentured servants.

    • Butcher's dog
      October 22, 2013 4:50 pm

      Well, I’ve thought for a while now that we didn’t end slavery or indentured servitude, we just transferred it to the middle class.

      Not a popular opinion, I know, but preventing this situation is a prime function of unions. There, I said it. The “U” word. Don’t hate me ’cause I’m beautiful!

  7. JenEngland
    October 22, 2013 9:31 pm

    I agree with all you said and all the comments, but really want I think warrants comment is your title. Best ever. I sent this around to a dozen people just for the title alone!

  8. Slick
    October 23, 2013 9:41 am

    Have you ever seen the movie “The Prestige”? The Pledge, The Turn, and the hardest part The Prestige….

  9. Megret
    October 25, 2013 9:24 am

    So, ask any UPMC what the “mission statement” is. Nothing about health or healing but something about being a driving economic force in the region. With no employees…

  10. Dr Kevlar
    October 26, 2013 2:45 pm

    When I worked for the Health Plan, we referred to it as “The Hell Plan.”

    A bit of information: UPMC touts the amount of “free care” the system provides. What they usually do not mention, is that they count as part of that the amount written off on Medicaid patients. That is they take the total billed charge, subtract the Medicaid payment and then show the difference as “free care.”

    This is essentially the same as taking the billed charge and subtracting the payment from the Hell…I mean Health Plan, and showing the difference as “free care.”

    Essentially they tout as a charitable donation the write-off on an insurance payment and then use that to show that they are meeting the minimum requirement for providing free care to maintain their non-profit status. It helps them when posting the very large number that is not profit, but “the amount of excess revenue over expenditures” that they post every year. I wish I knew who the person was there who came up with that phrase…