Highmark can't stop hospital's negative ad campaign

A recent court recommendation has delayed Highmark's attempts to stop the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) from engaging in a negative ad campaign based on the upcoming end of their payer-provider agreement.

Highmark sued the hospital network, claiming it launched a false and misleading advertising campaign intended to scare Highmark members into switching insurance carriers. UPMC's providers will become out of network for Highmark members after June 30, 2013, but UPMC claims the agreement for its doctors ends in 2012, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Pennsylvania's largest insurer filed a request for a preliminary injunction to stifle UPMC's campaign, however, a federal magistrate judge determined Highmark didn't present enough evidence that the insurer is likely to win its case or that the public is being harmed by the hospital system's communications, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Additionally, Highmark's injuction request effectively asks the judge to interpret the complicated contract to assess whether UPMC misrepresented what will happen when the contracts expire in June, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

Highmark said the court recommendation "is still preliminary and will be reviewed" in U.S. District Court. "Highmark continues to believe that, under terms of the contract, our members will continue to have access to UPMC hospitals and physicians through June 30, 2013."

The recommendation goes to U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti for a decision on the injunction. Highmark and UPMC have until Oct. 31 to file objections, notes the Post-Gazette.

To learn more:
- see the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article
- read the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article
- check out the Pittsburgh Business Times article

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