By Emily Tubb
AMORY – Crowds gathered Thursday at Gilmore Regional Medical Center to protest BlueCross BlueShield’s decision to drop the hospital from its network in a move that GRMC Gastroenterologist Dr. Joseph Bailey describes as “theatrics with the moral equivalency of professional wrestling.”
BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi terminated its contract with Health Management Associates, the state’s second largest hospital owner, after 10 Mississippi hospitals filed a lawsuit against the company alleging the insurer wrongfully reduced inpatient payments it was obligated to make for medical services and that BCBS slipped payment changes into its policy manual instead of negotiating changes.
“This is a dispute between HMA and BCBS and, when HMA took it court, BCBS threw them out of their network, putting in jeopardy the very people they’re supposed to be helping,” said Sen. Hob Bryan, who compared BCBS’ stubbornness and blatant disregard for the original contract to the character of Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carrolls’ “Through the Looking Glass.”
A letter issued to BCBS Chief Executive Office Carol Pigott, on behalf of the 10 hospitals currently involved in the lawsuit, requested negotiating rather than terminating coverage. According to GRMC CEO Allen Tyra, the request was ignored by BCBS.
Gilmore Foundation Executive Director Danny Spreitler announced at the rally that, on behalf of his foundation, it would no longer be carrying BCBS.
“I spent 20 years as a hospital administrator and BCBS is worthless. They send contracts via FedEx. They don’t negotiate, nor can they even spell ‘negotiate,’” Spreitler said.
Since coverage was dropped 45 days ago, GRMC has seen a 31 percent drop in BCBS volume. Those in attendance were urged to sign a petition at www.keepmyhospital.org asking BCBS to honor their obligation to HMA and its patients.