UPMC's game plan

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UPMC board chairman G. Nicholas Beckwith's defense of UPMC's refusal to deal with Highmark describes Highmark as having conflicting motivations. On the one hand, Highmark is said to be determined to divert thousands of UPMC patients to its own facilities, while on the other hand, Highmark seeks continued in-network access to UPMC facilities -- with the result that thousands of Highmark patients would be channeled to UPMC.

The decision to block in-network status for Highmark customers and forgo the millions they would provide to UPMC is not consistent with ordinary business logic, but it is clearly consistent with a long-range attempt to monopolize the health care and insurance markets. If Mr. Beckwith is correct in saying that the access to UPMC would in fact be illusory (because of unspecified machinations by Highmark), then there would be no need after all for UPMC to deny in-network access to Highmark's customers: Large numbers would abandon Highmark and flock to UPMC insurance due to Highmark's own actions -- thus sparing UPMC the need to violate the antitrust laws.

Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act proscribes attempts to monopolize. There is no need to show completion of the attempt: a "dangerous probability" of achieving monopoly power is enough. Perhaps U.S. Attorney David Hickton, who taught antitrust law at Duquesne, should dust off his notes. What seems obvious to almost everyone, that UPMC's actions make no sense except as an attempt at monopolization, apparently has not yet occurred to those whose job it is to enforce the law.

ARTHUR DENBERG
Squirrel Hill


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