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Westinghouse drops Highmark health plan

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 5:09 p.m.

Westinghouse Electric Co. will drop Highmark Health Services as an insurer for its employee health plans starting Jan. 1, a year before the insurer loses in-network access to most UPMC hospitals and doctors.

The Cranberry-based nuclear company switched its Highmark plan to Aetna Inc., which will continue to offer full in-network access at UPMC after next year. It had offered an Aetna option alongside Highmark.

“It was driven almost exclusively by our desire to get everything under one umbrella,” Westinghouse spokesman Vaughn Gilbert said of the decision to drop Highmark.

Westinghouse's move affects 7,500 U.S.-based employees. The company employs about 5,000 workers in Western Pennsylvania.

Westinghouse is the first large company to drop Highmark. The city of Pittsburgh recently announced that it would offer HealthAmerica as an alternative to Highmark for next year.

Highmark spokesman Aaron Billger said the insurer, which is Pennsylvania's largest, is in strong competition with national for-profit insurers like Aetna for companies with employees across the country such as Westinghouse. But, he said, “In Highmark's national accounts area, we were on-target and exceeding targets in enrollment throughout our competitive bidding with customers.”

Highmark is trying to hold onto insurance membership in Western Pennsylvania before the Dec. 31, 2014, expiration of reimbursement contracts with UPMC. Without those contracts, Highmark members will pay costly out-of-network charges to access UPMC hospitals and doctors.

Aetna and three other insurers — Cigna Corp., United Healthcare and HealthAmerica, which was acquired by Aetna earlier this year — signed new contracts with UPMC in 2011 giving them full in-network access, a position that only Highmark had previously enjoyed.

“We've been growing our membership in Western Pennsylvania and more companies are recognizing the value we can provide,” said Brian McGarry, Aetna's head of national accounts business in the state.

UPMC has been running television commercials that seek to convince Highmark members that they can switch insurers to keep in-network access to its hospitals and doctors.

Downtown health care consultant James McTiernan, of Triad Gallagher, said he would not read too much into the move by Westinghouse.

“This stuff happens every year,” he said of national companies switching insurers. “Big ones come and go every year.”

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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