Highmark asks federal judge to honor lawsuit settlement deal with ratepayers

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Highmark Inc. late Monday asked a federal judge to honor a settlement agreement it reached with class action plaintiffs, whose attorneys have asked that the pact be nixed.

Under the settlement, Highmark would pay $4.5 million to attorneys for Royal Mile Co., Pamela Lang, Cole's Wexford Hotel and other ratepayers. Highmark would also guarantee to take certain steps to support competition between insurers in the market and provide the plaintiffs' lawyers with documents and testimony that they could use against the other defendant, UPMC.

The plaintiffs' attorneys said earlier this month Highmark deceived them regarding pro-competitive steps it would take by promising to do things -- like maintain a low-premium product -- that it was already obligated to do. They asked U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti to scuttle the agreement.

Highmark's attorneys wrote in their response Monday that the plaintiffs' attorneys were "motivated purely by their own greed" and have "knowingly made false statements to this Court to try to scuttle the binding settlement."

They wrote that the insurer made new pro-competitive promises as part of the settlement and has cooperated with the plaintiffs' attorneys, who they claimed are just seeking more fees.

Highmark asked that Judge Conti disqualify several of the plaintiffs' attorneys from further involvement in the case.

Those attorneys could not be reached for immediate comment.

The lawsuit was filed in 2010 and claimed Highmark and UPMC conspired to control the healthcare market and charge excessive premiums and reimbursement rates, respectively.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.


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