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Format: 04/18/2014
Format: 04/18/2014


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: West Penn's lawsuit dismissed

Friday, October 30th, 2009

By Bill Toland and Steve Twedt

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

West Penn Allegheny Health System's ambitious antitrust suit against the two biggest players in Pittsburgh health care, rival University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and insurer Highmark Inc., was dismissed yesterday.

U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab wrote that West Penn's federal suit -- which alleged a conspiracy between Highmark and UPMC to reduce competition, inflate prices and ruin West Penn in the process -- was "inconsistent," and that the court "has found that no conspiracy or agreement to form an illegal market allocation arrangement has been properly alleged."

"We respectfully disagree with the court's opinion," said West Penn spokesman Dan Laurent. "We are reviewing the decision and considering our next step." The next step could be an appeal to a higher court, but it won't be a resubmission of an amended complaint to the same court; the judge wrote: "Amendment in this case would be futile."

UPMC and Highmark also issued comments yesterday afternoon. UPMC spokesman Paul Wood said "UPMC is pleased with the court's decision today to dismiss WPAHS's unfounded claims." Highmark's Michael Weinstein said "the court's decision reinforces Highmark's position that WPAHS failed to provide sufficient facts to support its federal antitrust claims, that it did not suffer any injury under the federal antitrust laws. ... The lawsuit represented a misguided effort by WPAHS to rewrite history and overlooked our continuing support for WPAHS throughout the past decade."

In his opinion, Judge Schwab wrote that West Penn was "inconsistent" in describing damages allegedly inflicted by Highmark and UPMC. "On one hand, West Penn Allegheny alleges that it suffered financial hardship and has a need for capital, [while] also admitting that it has experienced an increase in unrestricted cash."

West Penn filed the suit on April 21, alleging that Highmark and UPMC illegally raised prices for local health consumers while trying to "destroy" West Penn Allegheny. The suit detailed actions by the two going back to 2002 that it said were designed to assure Highmark's ongoing dominance in the local insurance market while establishing higher payment rates and eliminating West Penn Allegheny to benefit UPMC .

To read more, visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette web site.



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