Time is running out on the blue cross, UMMC Grace Period

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All non-emergency patients with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi health insurance are now considered outside the network of the University of Mississippi Medical Center and its many statewide clinics.

Ninety days have passed since Blue Cross’s contract with UMMC ended and negotiations have stalled, leaving many insured Mississippi residents without affordable access to care at the state’s largest medical complex. The three-month waiting period marks the end of the waiting period for patients already being treated at UMMC with Blue Cross insurance.

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney joined the negotiations soon after the treaty collapsed in late March, but his advocacy to recommend a mediation process like the one that led the parties to an agreement in 2018 does not appear to have resolved the rupture.

“When I offered mediation a few months ago, my hope was that an agreement would be reached by close of business on June 30, 2022,” Chaney wrote in a June 30 statement. “Unfortunately, this is not the case. However, mediation is ongoing and I remain optimistic that both parties can reach an agreement and that tens of thousands of consumers won’t be left behind.”

When the grace period expired, the Mississippi State Medical Association spoke out in favor of UMMC, slamming the insurance giant’s Mississippi office for “corporate greed.”

The Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA) has long fought for the doctors and most importantly the patients of our great state. However, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi’s corporate greed on multiple issues including prior approvals, access to care, reimbursement cuts and telemedicine has made this fight increasingly difficult,” the statement said, in part.

dr Alan Jones, UMMC associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs and professor of emergency medicine, told the Mississippi Free Press in March that UMMC is an academic and medical anchor for the state and therefore requires a different reimbursement rate than other Mississippi hospitals. “Just like the other academic medical centers in our area, (we) charge a different reimbursement rate than other hospitals,” Jones said.

Blue Cross, Jones continued, had disagreed. “They told us, ‘We have a reasonable network with no UMMC in it.’ … By not negotiating with us, it signals that they don’t think they need us in their network.”

Previously, Blue Cross corporate communications manager Cayla Mangrum told the Mississippi Free Press that the UMMC’s claims overstate their place in the region’s healthcare ecosystem. “As for UMMC’s claim to be paid more as an academic medical center, UMMC is comparing itself to institutions that are not,” Mangrum wrote. “For example, UMMC’s publicly reported quality ratings are lower than other nearby academic medical centers where our members frequently seek services.”

In the July 1 statement, MSMA accused Blue Cross of endangering the lives of Mississippi patients for financial gain. “Ultimately, Blue Cross has no other concern than increasing its bottom line,” it wrote. “And that bottom line increases at the expense of the health, safety and well-being of its policyholders.”

Today, Mangrum declined a request for further comment. UMMC’s executive director of communications and marketing, Marc Rolph, also declined a request for comment.

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