‘InHospitable’ Review: Fight for Survival

“InHospitable” is a decent advocacy documentary that compellingly argues a couple of points that aren’t easy to make compelling onscreen. One is that supposedly nonprofit hospitals often behave more like for-profit hospitals and don’t provide benefits commensurate with the tax breaks they receive. Another is that hospital mergers and anticompetitive practices tend to increase costs for patients.

The movie, directed by Sandra Alvarez, focuses on a surge of activism in Pittsburgh, where, in mid-2019, a pair of consent decrees agreed to by two medical bodies, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (or U.P.M.C.) and Highmark, were set to expire. Both organizations were insurers and providers rolled into one, as well as competitors. The agreement ensured that U.P.M.C. would remain in-network for Highmark subscribers for certain care.

The bad guy, in the film’s telling, is U.P.M.C., which is described as Pennsylvania’s largest employer and portrayed as having enormous political power. If the agreement expired, many Highmark patients would in effect have to switch insurers, pay higher costs or find new doctors elsewhere.

“InHospitable” spends time with subjects like Vicki and Maurice Arnett, who travel to Atlanta to obtain covered cancer treatment for Maurice rather than risk a disruption in his care, and Evie Bodick, who is frustrated with having to leave her doctors at U.P.M.C. and find five new specialists.

How this dispute was resolved three years ago — and even an early-pandemic coda from 2020 — is old news at this point. But Alvarez showcases a handful of experts, including health care economists and the former New York Times reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal, who cogently explain how the principles apply nationally.

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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