Judge blocks Highmark from terminating contract with Aetna

A judge has ruled that Pittsburgh-based Highmark can't terminate its contract with Hartford, Conn.-based health insurer Aetna for Jefferson Hospital in Jefferson Hills, Pa. on Jan. 31, according to a recent Pittsburgh Business Times report.

Highmark did not renew its contract with Aetna for Allegheny Health Network's Jefferson Hospital, and Aetna filed a motion for an emergency hearing on whether the termination was a violation of specifications provided by Pennsylvania's Insurance Department when Highmark acquired West Penn Allegheny Health System in 2013. Under those specifications, Highmark could not terminate a reimbursement contract before December 2015, according to the report.

Earlier this week, Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini granted Aetna an injunction to prevent termination of the Aetna contract at the end of this month, according to the report. Judge Pellegrini also referred the issue to the state Insurance Commissioner.

Aetna said in a statement, "We are pleased with the Commonwealth Court’s decision which supports our efforts to protect our members."

AHN spokesman Dan Laurent said in a prepared statement, "We continue to indicate our desire and willingness to negotiate a fair contract with Aetna based on competitive market rates."

Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine will take action "through enforcement of the prohibition placed on the merger or by allowing AHN to end the Aetna contract," according to the report.

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