Healthcare professionals testify before legislative committee - - Jackson, MS

Hospital insurance battle still brewing

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The insurance network battle is still brewing between Health Management Associates and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi. Monday they took the fight to the State Capitol.

HMA sued Blue Cross in June, claiming they weren't getting the money they were promised in their contract. A week later they were dropped from the Blue Cross network list.

The concerns from hospitals and doctors have only grown since then. They're worried they won't be around to give care if something doesn't change.

"The ultimate result is going to be that those hospitals close. It's not a threat. It's just a reality," said Paul Hurst, of Health Management Associates.

HMA hospitals are absorbing any out-of-network costs for Blue Cross patients but say those people are getting conflicting messages.

"They're telling patients that you can't go to these hospitals because we aren't going to pay for it. So they've created a lot of confusion, a lot of fear," said Hurst.

Blue Cross Blue Shield responded to the accusations during the hearing saying there's been a lot of misinformation circulated.

"Let me assure you that no one, no one, no one has been denied access to care," explained Charles Pace with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi.

Blue Cross says any hospital that's forced to close is not because of them, and their attorney pointed to the June lawsuit from HMA as a reason for why they were dropped from the network.

"Who in this room would continue a contractual relationship with somebody who sued you and accused you of fraud under that very contract?" asked Chris Shapley, who is serving as the legal representation for Blue Cross.

Yet, doctors in the room said they can't escape the effects that network change has caused.

"To Blue Cross, I say shame on you. Shame on you for using the health and lives of my patients as bargaining chips for your corporate welfare," argued Amory gastroenteritis Dr. Joe Bailey.

OBGYNs, in particular, have major concerns. Forty percent of the babies born in Mississippi are born at HMA hospitals. Now, those doctors are having to go to other already packed hospitals for deliveries.

"It would be a severe crowding issue for those babies and it would be a safety issue," said neonatologist Dr. Cris Glick.

Legislators hope the dispute is resolved soon, but they are interested in the possibility of introducing legislation that would basically eliminate insurance networks for hospitals.

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