In suit, UPMC accuses Highmark of false, misleading ad campaign

In a new advertising campaign, Highmark is falsely accusing UPMC hospitals of refusing to admit its members and denying care to thousands of people, according to a lawsuit filed by UPMC against Pennsylvania's largest insurer.

UPMC, Western Pennsylvania's largest hospital system, said Highmark has refused to remove the TV, radio and newspaper ads despite several requests to do so. Some of Highmark's new commercials, part of its "No Access Campaign," claim UPMC wants a monopoly and is "quite honestly trying to deceive you," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

"As Highmark well knows, doors will not be shut, access will not be denied and Highmark health insurance customers will be able to use UPMC after 2014 on at least an out-of-network basis," UPMC said in the lawsuit, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times. "It is false for Highmark to say otherwise."

However, Highmark said it will "aggressively defend" itself against the lawsuit's claims, Highmark spokesperson Aaron Billger said in a statement. He added that UPMC has launched its own set of "misleading" commercials against Highmark, claiming for example, that Highmark will steer its members away from UPMC hospitals to the West Penn Allegheny Health System, which the insurer owns, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

"UPMC ignores the reality that its exorbitant charges for hospital services will preclude use of UPMC facilities by Highmark members unless there is a contract between the two organizations that makes care affordable," Billger said. "The irony is that UPMC runs misleading ads and then takes legal action against Highmark Health Services to try to stop it from informing the public about the threat to the community's health care choice."

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

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