Highmark sues UPMC over 'deceptive' ad campaign

The adversarial relationship between Highmark and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) rages on as Highmark says UPMC is engaging in a false, misleading, and deceptive marketing campaign against it.

Highmark filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the hospital network, claiming it launched a "false and misleading" advertising campaign intended to "scare" Highmark members into switching insurance carriers. The state's largest insurer also alleged that UPMC's campaign is "aggressive" and "brazen."

According to the complaint, UPMC's advertisements online, in newspapers, and on the radio suggest Highmark members will lose all access to UPMC after June 30, 2012, when contracts with UPMC expire. Highmark argues the ads violate a contract clause barring UPMC from steering patients to competing insurers, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

UPMC's advertisements seek "to panic employers and healthcare consumers into thinking that they have to sever all ties with Highmark immediately" to keep their doctors, according to the complaint.

However, Highmark says its members actually will continue to have access to all UPMC facilities until June 2013. It is therefore asking the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh to stop UPMC from running its advertisements, notes the Tribune-Review.

The complaint also alleges that UPMC launched the negative campaign in response to Highmark's recent purchase of West Penn Allegheny Health System, which helps preserve the provider as an alternative to UPMC.

To learn more:
- read Highmark's complaint (.pdf)
- check out the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article

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