An attorney representing the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked a federal judge on Wednesday to make public a motion for sanctions filed by Highmark against UPMC in a court case involving the two.
Attorney Frederick N. Frank filed the motion a day after U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti decided that Highmark could file the motion under seal.
Recent filings in the case indicate that the insurer wants judicial sanctions against UPMC's attorneys, claiming that their allegations against Highmark are contradicted by evidence.
UPMC has claimed in the 4-year-old court fight that Highmark used its market dominance to force UPMC into unfavorable contracts.
Sealing the motion "severely limits the Post-Gazette's ability to report to the general public on an issue that is unquestionably of the highest public importance -- health care in Western Pennsylvania," Mr. Frank wrote in the motion.
Court documents are presumed to be public, he continued, and Highmark has not showed that availability of the motion would cause "clearly defined and serious injury."
Litigation in this case began in 2009, when West Penn Allegheny Health System sued UPMC and Highmark, claiming both conspired to stifle competition and destroy WPAHS. West Penn Allegheny later dropped Highmark as a defendant when it agreed to be purchased by the insurer, leaving Highmark and UPMC to do battle with each other.
In a separate federal case involving Highmark and UPMC, stemming from the allegedly exorbitant costs of insurance premiums and health care charged by the two health care giants, Highmark on Wednesday told Judge Conti that there is value in a proposed class-action settlement that the plaintiffs no longer want, setting up another round in another lengthy court battle.
Judge Conti said that the question of whether a proposed settlement between plaintiffs including Royal Mile Co., and defendant Highmark, is too complicated for anyone but a court-appointed "special master" -- who should probably be a health care economist with statistics skills.
Royal Mile and other plaintiffs sued UPMC and Highmark in 2010, saying they colluded to jack up rates. Last year, Royal Mile and Highmark agreed that the insurer would pay up to $4.5 million to cover the plaintiffs' legal costs, provide information they could use against UPMC and take two measures to improve health care competition and lower costs to ratepayers.
Judge Conti gave the two sides until Monday to suggest a special master. A hearing including testimony on the valuation issue would follow.
Rich Lord: email@example.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.