Highmark files court motion seeking sanctions against UPMC attorneys

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Highmark filed a motion in federal court Thursday seeking sanctions against UPMC's attorneys, claiming they had filed a complaint that is contradicted by past sworn testimony of the health care network's executives.

The 25-page motion for sanctions was redacted to remove the names, titles and responsibilities of the UPMC executives and other lengthy sections, some longer than a page.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti to unseal an unredacted version of the motion.

Highmark's motion said that in 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice investigated the region's health care markets and "deposed several UPMC executives regarding (among other things) the negotiations between Highmark and UPMC that led to the 2002 contracts" that set reimbursement rates for health care for the next decade.

The executives' testimony "directly contradicts" claims made last year that Highmark used its insurance market dominance to coerce UPMC into a disadvantageous contract and to starve out the UPMC Health Plan.

UPMC spokesman Paul Wood called the motion "a last-ditch attempt to avoid discovery and disclosure of highly damaging information" about Highmark. "UPMC is fully confident its allegations against Highmark are not only factual, but will be confirmed by [coming] discovery."

Highmark wants Judge Conti to dismiss UPMC's complaint against it and force UPMC to reimburse Highmark for attorney fees and costs.

UPMC sued Highmark last year as part of a 4-year-old legal fight launched by West Penn Allegheny Health System, which originally claimed that the insurance and hospital giants had conspired to stifle competition.

When Highmark proposed to purchase West Penn Allegheny, it focused its allegations against UPMC, which filed a countersuit.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord First Published April 4, 2013 6:30 PM


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