Federal judge dismisses antitrust suit against U of Pitt, Highmark

A Pittsburgh-area health system has lost its federal antitrust case against its powerful rival and the health plan it claimed was in cahoots with that rival, a loss which could have long-term competitive implications for the region.

This week, a judge threw out West Penn Allegheny Health System's (WPAHS) antitrust suit against the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and health insurer Highmark Inc. The two have engaged in a multitiude of legal battles, including a lockout of an OB/GYN group when the group gave UPMC notice that it was moving to WPAHS.

In the suit, WPAHS claimed that the two entities had conspired to hurt its business. It contended that UPMC had taken many steps to restrict competition, such as stealing away critical physicians. Meanwhile, it contended that Highmark helped the academic medical center by killing a health plan used soley by WPAHS doctors and hospitals--a step it said was designed to keep other insurers out of the Pittsburgh metro.

UPMC, for its part, has had better luck with federal regulators. Two years ago, the FTC allowed UPMC to sail through its buyout of Catholic healthcare facility Mercy Hospital, despite the fact that it had more than 25 percent share of the market already.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this Pittsburgh Business Times piece 

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