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UPMC wants Highmark to drop lawsuit

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Thursday, June 27, 2013, 6:24 p.m.
 

UPMC wants a federal judge in Pittsburgh to order Highmark to drop a lawsuit that accuses the hospital network of using its market power to stifle once-ailing West Penn Allegheny Health System.

West Penn Allegheny originally sued UPMC and Highmark in 2009 alleging they had conspired to drive it out of business. Once Highmark agreed to buy West Penn Allegheny in November 2011, the five-hospital system dropped Highmark from the suit but continued claims against UPMC.

Highmark agreed to end the lawsuit once it acquired West Penn Allegheny. That agreement was part of a deal with UPMC last year that allowed members of the state's largest health insurer to have in-network access to the hospital and its doctors until the end of 2014.

“Approximately two months have passed (since the acquisition closed), and Highmark has still not complied with its obligations,” UPMC wrote in a filing on Thursday in the court of U.S. District Court Judge Joy Flowers Conti.

“As a result of Highmark's failure to comply with the terms of the settlement agreement, UPMC asks the court to enforce the terms of the agreement.”

Highmark, which received state approval to acquire West Penn Allegheny for $1.1 billion at the end of April, responded that “both organizations agreed to dismiss certain legal actions,” but UPMC is trying to continue a countersuit it filed against Highmark and West Penn Allegheny last year.

“While Highmark Health Services stands ready to comply with the mediation agreement, UPMC refuses to abide by the agreement so that it can continue its antitrust lawsuit against Highmark and continue to harass Highmark for standing up to UPMC and for trying to preserve health care competition in the region,” according to a statement from the insurer.

Highmark and UPMC, the largest hospital network in Western Pennsylvania, have been locked in battle since June 2011 when the insurer said it was planning to buy West Penn Allegheny, UPMC's chief rival. UPMC has refused to renew the reimbursement contracts with Highmark that expire at the end of 2014 because it says the insurer has converted itself into a direct competitor in the hospital business.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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