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Economy & Business

State Insurance Officials Hold Public Hearing on Highmark, Allegheny Health Network

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department held a public hearing in Harrisburg Monday on a request Highmark made to transfer $175 million dollars in the form of a grant to Allegheny Health Network.

Highmark requested the grant in March for capital investments.

It's been two years since the Pennsylvania Insurance Department approved the creation of the Allegheny Health Network, bringing together what was the West Penn Allegheny Health Network and Highmark and forming the region’s second biggest health care provider.

The hearing started with comments by Acting Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller, Chief Council for the Insurance Department Yen Lucas and Deputy Insurance Commissioner Stephen Johnson.

Miller said in the past two years they’ve heard from Highmark a number of times on all the changes implemented by the Allegheny Health Network. 

“These issues impact many health care consumers," she said. "In light of these impacts, we think its appropriate to hold this hearing and gather input from those in the community about whether the public has received benefits from the affiliation transaction.”

They heard comments from Highmark officials, including David Holmberg, president and CEO of Highmark. He highlighted some of the work the network has done in the last year, such as establishing a mobile unit in Erie, new clinics in the North and South Hills of Pittsburgh and opening an urgent care clinic in Braddock.

“We made the decision to invest financial and clinical resources at Forbes Hospital because it was in our view that it was vitally important that we have a Level 2 Trauma Center in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh,” Holmberg said. “That decision and our subsequent accreditation enabled the facility and its expert staff to provide life savings supports during two unfortunate crises in the past year — the stabbings at Franklin Regional High School and the Monroeville Mall shootings.”

Holmberg called the Allegheny Health Network “a great success story” and acknowledged that it has come with growing pains. Those pains are in the way of financial problems, when Highmark purchased the West Penn Allegheny Health Network, the hospital system was significantly struggling.

“The financial condition of Highmark Health is strong and stable," Holmberg said. "Our strength comes from the diversity of our businesses which has been purposeful as we have sought new ways of serving our customers and patients as well as new markets.”

The Insurance Commission also heard public comment and from a consulting group. There was no final decision reached at Monday’s meeting.