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West Penn, Highmark working to speed merger approval, CEO says

Top executives from Highmark Inc. and West Penn Allegheny Health System have met with the state Insurance Department several times in the last four weeks to try to speed review of Highmark's proposed $475 million acquisition of the financially troubled health system.

Dr. Keith Ghezzi, interim CEO of West Penn Allegheny, said today that the meetings have been "constructive" and he's hoping the department will approve the transaction sometime between June and September.

"They want to do a comprehensive and thorough review," Ghezzi said during a meeting with reporters at the health system's offices on the North Shore.

Highmark and West Penn Allegheny submitted the transaction for department review in November and state officials have said it could take a year to complete the approval process. But Highmark CEO Dr. Kenneth Melani said at the end of November that West Penn Allegheny could fail if the transaction isn't approved by June.

Highmark and West Penn Allegheny are beginning the process of combining some of their operations — where allowable — but fully implementing plans that are key to the system's turnaround can't take place until the acquisition is approved, Ghezzi said.

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