Highmark Inc. and the West Penn Allegheny Health System trumpeted Wednesday’s $725 million debt restructuring for teetering West Penn as a new beginning, but one major credit rating agency cited “close parallels” to the bankruptcy of West Penn’s predecessor company 15 years ago.

The Pittsburgh-based organizations said Blue Cross Blue Shield provider Highmark, as part of an affiliation agreement, will buy the debt at 87.5 cents on the dollar, or roughly $635 million, without West Penn having to file for bankruptcy. The agreement clears a major hurdle to an affiliation agreement, which the Pennsylvania Inurance Department still must approve.

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