Highmark, Royal Mile in proposed settlement
The region's largest health insurance company denies it engaged in anti-competitive practices but agrees to refrain from those practices until Dec. 31, 2014, in a proposed class-action settlement filed Thursday in federal court.
Highmark Inc. also agrees to pay the attorneys for Royal Mile Co. and the other plaintiffs $4.5 million, but it doesn't agree to reduce premium rates or provide its customers with a refund. A Highmark spokesman declined to comment.
Royal Mile, a Whitehall-based property management company, and the other plaintiffs contend that Highmark has conspired with UPMC to drive up premiums. If U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti approves the settlement, it would leave the hospital system as the only defendant in the lawsuit.
Scott Hare, one of Royal Mile's attorneys, said that while the settlement doesn't reduce premiums or provide a refund to Highmark's customers, the plaintiffs have commissioned an economic analysis that they will present at a hearing before the judge approves the settlement. The precise numbers aren't available yet, but the studies will show that the agreement will benefit customers by "tens of millions of dollars," he said.
"We're confident that that's the range of figures we're going to see," Hare said.
With Highmark's help, the plaintiffs are also in a stronger position for obtaining a damage award against UPMC that would also benefit Highmark's customers, Hare said.
A UPMC spokesman couldn't be reached for comment. UPMC has previously asked Conti to dismiss it from the lawsuit. It claims that federal antitrust law only allows a claim by someone who has directly purchased a good or service from a company.
Since all of Royal Mile's dealings were with Highmark, Royal Mile doesn't have a claim against UPMC, the hospital system argues.
Mylan sues FDA over generic drug
Mylan Inc. sued the Food and Drug Administration for approval to sell a generic version of Novartis AG's heart pill Diovan after a competitor failed to get the drug on the market in time. Mylan, in a lawsuit filed this week in federal court in Washington, said Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. forfeited its right to six-month exclusivity to sell the generic drug by not winning FDA approval. Mylan argues the FDA's refusal to approve its sale of the drug is arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion. On Sept. 21, Mylan, based in Canonsburg, announced a copy of Diovan HCT, a combination of the Novartis drug and hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic, while Novartis' own generics unit started marketing a branded version of the same drug.
Ex-steelworkers to get job services
Workers laid off from steel industry plants in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia will get re-employment services under a $450,777 federal emergency grant announced on Thursday. The training and support are for about 184 workers affected by cuts at six RG Steel facilities -- four in Ohio and two in West Virginia -- plus a supplier, a Kinder Morgan plant in Pennsylvania. The grant is the last piece of a $984,248 award announced in 2010, when steelmaker Severstal owned the plants. RG Steel purchased them later. The latest funding will go toward workers already getting services, plus workers laid off as a result of RG Steel's Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
30-year mortgage rate hits 3.36%
Average rates on fixed mortgages fell to record lows for the second straight week. The declines have led more homeowners to refinance, a trend that could help jumpstart the economy. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said on Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan dropped to 3.36 percent. That's down from last week's rate of 3.40 percent, which was the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing …