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Highmark, West Penn deal back on track [The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

By Alex Nixon, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 24--Highmark Inc.'s plan to buy West Penn Allegheny Health System and make it the core of a new integrated hospital network in Western Pennsylvania is back on track after several tumultuous months.

The state Insurance Department could issue a decision in April whether to allow the more than $1 billion deal after Highmark, the state's largest health insurer, struck an agreement in January to buy West Penn Allegheny's bond debt and to give the struggling operator of five hospitals higher reimbursement rates.

The deal almost fell apart in September when West Penn Allegheny alleged Highmark had broken the agreement by demanding the hospital system enter bankruptcy to reduce its debt.

Highmark sued to prevent West Penn Allegheny from talking to other possible buyers and won.

Insurance Department officials said on Jan. 23 they needed at least 10 weeks to finish reviewing the deal and have promised a prompt decision.

Approval is not assured. The department has said it remains concerned about West Penn Allegheny's ongoing financial losses and unfunded pension liability of $280 million.

Highmark is creating a new health system to compete with UPMC, the region's dominant health system with 19 hospitals and more than 3,000 doctors.

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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(c)2013 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)

Visit The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) at www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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