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Foundation official: OK Highmark plan for WPAHS

| Sunday, April 28, 2013, 11:30 p.m.

An official with a foundation that provides assistance to the West Penn Allegheny Health System is calling on the state insurance commissioner to sign off on Highmark Inc.'s proposal to buy the financially strapped hospital system.

“Financially stout Highmark Inc., the nation's ninth-largest health insurance company — with $6 billion in cash-like liquid assets among its whopping $11 billion in total assets — proposes to buy and rescue the debt-laden West Penn Allegheny Health System,” wrote Earl Bohn, vice chairman of the Suburban Health Foundation, in a letter to state Insurance Commissioner Michael F. Consedine dated Sunday.

“The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has given you the authority to decide this matter. Please approve Highmark's application promptly.”

Consultants hired by the insurance department to review the proposed $1.1 billion purchase have raised concerns that Highmark would draw an undisclosed number of patients from smaller hospitals to West Penn Allegheny Health System if the deal is approved.

The April 8 consultant's report said the seven community hospitals outside Pittsburgh could be harmed by the deal.

However, Highmark officials last week issued a statement to the insurance department arguing that Western Pennsylvania's community hospitals have more to fear from UPMC than Highmark's planned health system.

Highmark contended that UPMC, the largest hospital system in Western Pennsylvania, has taken more than $3 billion in medical services from the region's community hospitals since 2007.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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