PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Dr. Kenneth Melani has quickly become the face of Highmark, testifying before legislative committees and often speaking bluntly of UPMC’s CEO Jeffry Romoff.

In December 2011 Melani said of Romoff: “Mr. Romoff is self-centered for his own purposes.”

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Now it is Melani who is under attack and whether he survives at Highmark or not, Melani has been key to the business’ success, says those who have followed his rise.

Jim McTiernan, a principal at Triad USA which is an employee benefits consulting firm in Pittsburgh, told KDKA Money Editor Jon Delano it was Melani’s leadership that placed Highmark where it is today.

“Overall, it’s his vision of what he wanted Highmark to be and what he wants the West Penn Allegheny integrated system to look like, so I would say he’s extremely important,” said McTiernan.

But McTiernan said Highmark is not likely to backslide, regardless of Melani’s absence.

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“The basic infrastructure is in place. The vision is there. I don’t think it will really impact it, one way or the other,” he said.

Melani, who once worked at West Penn Hospital and who named a Washington & Jefferson College classmate to run the hospital, now forces Highmark to address a comment he once had of UPMC’s Romoff.

“He’s not looking at the best interests of the people in the community,” Melani said.

But McTiernan doesn’t think customers of Highmark will be particularly affected by Melani’s issues.

“At the end of the day, I think they’re worried about who’s paying their claims, who’s answering the phone, and is UPMC going to be in their network; and who’s running the show is really immaterial,” said McTiernan.

Despite the highly embarrassing nature of this situation involving Melani, nobody really believes that it will have any long-lasting impact on Highmark and its ongoing battles with UPMC.

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