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Wagner Proclaims Support for Highmark's Acquisition of West Penn Allegheny

Noah Brode/90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh mayoral candidate Jack Wagner announced Monday that he has sent a letter to Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine that urges him to approve the proposed "affiliation" between Highmark, Inc. and the West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS).

At a corner of Federal Street in view of Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side, Wagner said the long-awaited acquisition of WPAHS by Highmark would ultimately attract new businesses to Pittsburgh by lowering employer healthcare costs.

"You need competition in the healthcare industry to make sure you can at least control or keep down the cost," Wagner said. "The acquisition of the West Penn Allegheny with Highmark creates competition in this region and in the healthcare market."

If it's approved by Consedine this month, the proposed affiliation would compete with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) on two levels: First, the WPAHS hospitals would contend with UPMC facilities, and second, Highmark's insurance plans would vie with that of UPMC.

The proposed merger would also ensure that health system employees keep their jobs, Wagner said. He mentioned that he patronizes two West Penn Allegheny doctors: a general physician and an orthopedist.

Wagner said Consedine is expected to make his decision before the end of April.

Wagner, a former Pennsylvania auditor general, is running in the Democratic mayoral primary this May against three opponents: City Councilman Bill Peduto, bus monitor A.J. Richardson and state Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny).

About a month ago Peduto wrote a similar letter to the Insurance Department saying WPAHS facilities would not survive without the merger and asking for the approval of the Highmark-West Penn Allegheny affiliation proposal.