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UPMC Health Plan Appeals Judge's Decision

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (February 9, 2001)UPMC Health Plan announced today that it is appealing U.S. District Court Judge William Standish's decision that its advertisement comparing network access with one of its competitors was inaccurate.

UPMC Health Plan believes the ad, which ran in the Feb. 1 and 4 editions of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is accurate.

"We obviously do not agree with the decision today and will continue to fight for the right to run a comparative ad again," said Patricia Liebman, chief executive officer of UPMC Health Plan. "First, we believe the ad is correct in pointing out the wider access that Allegheny County employees will have to UPMC facilities if they choose the UPMC Health Plan network. I think that became very clear in the court testimony this week.

"And second, we strongly believe that we have the right to do such comparison advertising. That's the way that consumers can become educated about their health benefits choices," Liebman said.

The disputed ad ran in the Feb. 1 and 4 editions of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The ad pointed out the unlimited access that UPMC Health Plan gives Allegheny County employees to certain UPMC hospitals and physicians. This ad then compared the network access between the UPMC Health Plan and Highmark products. In court, UPMC defined "access" as having no additional out-of-pocket cost to the consumer.

Liebman also testified in U.S. District Court Thursday that Highmark itself has run such newspaper ads defining access to mean "without additional cost to the consumer." She pointed out a Highmark advertisement that appeared in the summer of 1999, noting that Highmark used the ad to define network availability.

"Our goals all along were - and are - to educate consumers in Allegheny County so they can make informed decisions on which health benefits are best for them," Liebman said after the ruling.

UPMC Health Plan does these educational efforts in many ways. One such way is a comparison advertisement, such as the one in question. As UPMC Health Plan has said since this lawsuit was filed, educated consumers are able to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

The appeal is being filed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

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