Westinghouse Electric Co., the Cranberry-based nuclear engineering company, is leaving Highmark Inc. and handing the entirety of its health insurance business to Aetna.
Westinghouse has 14,000 employees nationally, about 5,600 of whom are in the Pittsburgh area.
As such, it's a significant loss for Pittsburgh-based Highmark, which is battling with national insurers as well as UPMC Health Plan for local market share. About 7,500 Westinghouse employees nationally are enrolled in its health plan.
"Westinghouse is considered a national account," Highmark spokesman Aaron Billger said. "The national account space is extremely competitive. We win some accounts and lose some accounts." Westinghouse is a "name-recognizable loss, but we have a tremendous book of business with national accounts."
Overall, he said, Highmark is exceeding its national membership goals.
Highmark isn't losing the entire Westinghouse customer base, because it didn't have the whole account to begin with -- Aetna already had a piece of the account, running the higher-cost consumer-directed health plan, while Highmark ran the company's preferred provider organization, or PPO network.
Starting next year, both the PPO and the high-deductible plan will be administered by Aetna.
Westinghouse announced its decision Wednesday via email to its U.S. employees, saying a shift to a single insurer will "provide greater efficiency and simplify administration" of the company's health coverage.
Westinghouse spokesman Vaughn Gilbert said that, of the physicians that are now part of the company's combined Aetna-Highmark network, 98 percent would be in the Aetna-only network.
He said he didn't know how the company's 7,500 health plan enrollees were currently split between Highmark and Aetna.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Pittsburgh health system UPMC said Westinghouse's decision was a result of UPMC's own decision to end its long relationship with Highmark at the end of next year, meaning many of the insurer's customers could be without UPMC hospital access come 2015.
"Westinghouse, like the [city of Pittsburgh] last month and most employers will do in the coming months, has made it clear to its employees how important preserving their full, affordable in-network access to UPMC is, by simply switching health insurers," Paul Wood said.
Bill Toland: email@example.com or 412-263-2625. First Published September 25, 2013 4:15 PM