Insurance Commissioner Chaney says he wishes UMMC would use the funds to take care of patients instead of bashing insurance carriers.

According to an article stemming from a public records request by Jackson Jambalaya, the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) spent $278,796 on ads attacking Blue Cross/BlueShield in commercials, digital media, and on billboards after the hospital and insurer could not come to terms in April 2022.

At the center of the dispute, as described by Jackson Jambalaya, was that UMMC wanted a higher reimbursement closer to what it claimed are the rates for teaching hospitals in other states.  Blue Cross maintained that it would not pay UMMC more than it paid other hospitals in Mississippi, whose reimbursements are also tied to patient outcomes.

As a result, UMMC coordinated a massive advertising and public relations offensive against Blue Cross, contracting with Revive Marketing in Nashville, Tennessee for commercials and digital ads and other non-itemized expenditures to the tune of $242,282.

UMMC also bought outdoor billboard space with Lamar Advertising, spending $36,514 so far for ads in Jackson, Gluckstadt, Yazoo City, Grenada, Kosciusko, Greenwood and Winona.

Jackson Jambalaya reports that UMMC continues to renew the billboards “and shows no signs of backing down as it renews the ads through August.”

Y’all Politics contacted UMMC on Tuesday, asking about the source of these funds, whether they are from their state appropriations, i.e. tax dollars, their foundation’s philanthropic endeavors or patient operations.

Marc Rolph, UMMC’s Executive Director over Communications and Marketing, said the funds for these marketing activities are being paid through “health system revenue accounts,” or essentially patient operations.

These funds are being expended during a time when UMMC has reportedly experienced revenue losses, layoffs, and budget cuts over the last few years.

Coming off of an over $150 million operating loss in 2020 while suffering from the need for more medical staff and better pay for employees, the hospital has embarked on these new advertising ventures, even recently going so far as to sponsor a podcast for Mississippi Today when that outlet has devoted very pointed coverage in favor of UMMC and against Blue Cross.

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says that spending dollars in this way when the funds could be used to treat patients is concerning to him.

“They’re a public hospital.  I certainly wish that they would use those dollars to try to take care of patients with health care needs and not be bashing the insurance carriers of the state,” Chaney told Y’all Politics.

The Insurance Commissioner has called on UMMC and Blue Cross to work out their differences for the betterment of the state’s citizens.  Chaney said part of his speech at the Neshoba County Fair this week will focus on this ongoing dispute.

Commissioner Chaney says he has appointed a mediator to assist in the negotiations.

However, according to sources close to UMMC, the hospital is allocating additional dollars to engage in what could be a lengthy legal battle with Blue Cross if those negotiations fail to be fruitful.  The dollar figure for the public hospital could top $5 million, sources tell Y’all Politics.