Justices send UPMC-Highmark case back to lower court

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court sent a case involving UPMC and Highmark back to a lower court, stating more information is needed to make a decision on the deadline of an upcoming split between the Pittsburgh-based rivals, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In a 4-3 vote, the Supreme Court sent the ruling back to the Commonwealth Court. The higher court said the lower court has the authority to schedule arguments and decide when a consent decree between UPMC and Highmark should expire. In addition, other counts of a civil lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro in February are still pending in the lower court.

Mr. Shapiro said the ruling was a "crucial step toward delivering justice for the people of Western Pennsylvania." Mr. Shapiro is seeking an indefinite extension of the agreement between Highmark and UPMC. Highmark agreed, telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the ruling was a "critical step in preserving healthcare choice for consumers."

UPMC told the publication it was notable the Supreme Court didn't accept Mr. Shapiro's argument that modification of the contract was unlimited: "Importantly, all of the justices agreed that it was not necessary for them to extend the termination date of the consent decrees through their extraordinary powers," a UPMC spokesperson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Commonwealth Court is slated to schedule arguments on the case on an expedited basis. The consent decree is set to expire June 30.

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