Former Highmark CEO hits health insurer with $32M lawsuit

Kenneth Melani, MD, who previously served as president and CEO of Pittsburgh-based Highmark, has filed a $32 million lawsuit against his former employer, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report.

On March 25, 2012, Dr. Melani took an unpaid leave of absence from Highmark after being charged with assault following a physical confrontation with the husband of his mistress. On April 1, 2012, he was fired as president and CEO of Highmark. Dr. Melani is now claiming that Highmark owes him $32 million in severance and damages.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Dr. Melani claims that although the termination letter he received from Highmark says he was terminated for "cause," there was no legitimate cause cited for his termination. He alleges Highmark let him go after he refused to fire Melissa Myler, the woman he was having the affair with, according to the report.

Dr. Melani alleges Robert Baum, Highmark's board chairman, asked him to fire Ms. Myler on Feb. 28, 2012. Dr. Melani claims he refused to do so because he believed firing Ms. Myler over a consensual relationship would be sex discrimination.

However, Dr. Melani's former employer disagrees with the allegations. "Highmark will vigorously defend the lawsuit brought by Dr. Melani and had ample justification for its termination of Dr. Melani for cause," Aaron Bilger, a Highmark spokesman, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

More articles on healthcare industry lawsuits:

Whistle-blower claims 2 NC hospitals bilked Medicare for millions; government bows out of lawsuit
California physician faces murder trial for deaths of 3 patients
Florida hospital hits Health First with antitrust lawsuit for trying to monopolize cancer care market

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