Highmark, West Penn leaders talk, may revive deal

Only a few weeks after West Penn Allegheny Health System canceled its agreement with Highmark, executives from both companies spoke to each other, potentially opening the door to resume the planned merger.

WPAHS Board Chairman Jack Isherwood and Highmark CEO William Winkenwerder had "a very cordial" phone conversation on Wednesday, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Isherwood "wanted it to be clear that WPAHS has no preconditions to meeting with Highmark and would like to resume talks as soon as possible," and Winkenwerder "expressed his desire to keep the lines of communication open," WPAHS Spokeswomen Kelly Sorice told the newspaper.

Although WPAHS is eager to re-open communication with Highmark about its agreement to buy the financially ailing health system, WPAHS wants Highmark "to come with a different plan that addresses our concerns and their concerns, because what they have proposed is unacceptable," WPAHS Board Member Paul Dimmick said.

WPAHS claimed Highmark was forcing it to declare bankruptcy so it could cut $600 million off the $1.4 billion total acquisition costs.

Highmark Spokesman Aaron Billger wouldn't confirm the conversation, instead issuing a statement urging WPAHS to "change their position and disavow their claim of an affiliation breach, so that we can continue talks regarding a financial restructuring or an alternative proposal," the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

Meanwhile, Highmark is moving forward with its planned development of a 190,000-square-foot medical mall, which will include doctor offices and health-related retail outlets, reported the Pittsburgh Business Times.

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

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