If an agreement isn’t reached by year’s end, lawmakers could be asking questions of the two when they gavel back in.
The dispute between the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCSB) of Mississippi appears to have no end in sight.
The two multi-billion dollar entities are at a stalemate over reimbursement rates, a matter that has overflowed into name calling, pricy public relations campaigns, and even a defamation lawsuit filed by BCBS against leaders at UMMC.
In April, UMMC and BCBS agreed to a mediation process at the urging of Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. State law prohibits Chaney from directly mediating or helping resolve the dispute.
However, five months in, Commissioner Chaney told Y’all Politics on Wednesday that he has suspended the mediation indefinitely.
“On Friday, October 7, 2022, I suspended meditation indefinitely between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi Medical Center because no progress has been reported to my office in the last six weeks,” Chaney said.
The Insurance Commissioner also expressed his frustration and disappointment with the two, noting the impact it is having on Mississippians.
“It’s deplorable that the citizens of our state are being used as pawns to settle this dispute. I remain hopeful that both parties resolve this conflict in the coming weeks,” Chaney concluded.
As previously reported by Y’all Politics, Chaney in his correspondence with UMMC and BCBS has pleaded with both sides to negotiate in good faith, applying what leverage he can to rectify behavior that is not in the best interest of policyholders and those seeking care due to excessive financial requirements.
The Board at the Institutions of Higher Learning, which oversees UMMC as part of the public university system, has had their hands full in this matter as well. The longer this dispute lasts along with the defamation lawsuit filed against UMMC’s leaders it could rack up millions of dollars in fees which the state would be on the hook for as these proceedings continue.
Those legal fees are in addition to the funds being used by UMMC to engage in an ad campaign against BCBS. It was first reported by Jackson Jambalaya in August that UMMC ad buys targeting BCBS had surpassed $270,000 from hospital operating revenues. Those ads are at the center of what BCBS claims in their lawsuit is a defamatory public relations campaign against the company.
Barring a resolution to this issue by year’s end, lawmakers could find themselves in the position of wading into this matter when the Mississippi Legislature returns in January.
House and Senate committees on public health, insurance, Medicaid, and colleges/universities may be the forums where the dispute ultimately plays out.