Bryant intervenes against BlueCross

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

A day after BlueCross & BlueShield moved to restore Gilmore Memorial in Amory and three other hospitals to its network, Gov. Phil Bryant issued an executive order restoring all 10 HMA hospitals to the network for 60 days.

BRYANT

BRYANT

“I had hoped the two parties could come to some resolution, but as governor, I cannot sit back and allow Mississippians’ access to care to be threatened in violation of state law,” Bryant said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

“It is my hope that a full investigation will ensure that no law has been broken as it relates to a patient’s access to care and a provider’s responsibility under state law.”

BlueCross, the state’s largest health insurance company, and the 10 hospitals owned by Florida-based Health Management Associates have been locked in a dispute over reimbursement rates.

In June, HMA filed suit, charging BlueCross with underpaying them by $18 million. Saying the for-profit system’s charges were out of line, BlueCross terminated the network agreements with the 10 HMA hospitals, located in Amory, Batesville, Biloxi Clarksdale and metro Jackson, effective Sept. 1.

HMA officials commended Bryant for acting.

“The governor’s actions illustrate that all communities matter,” said J. Allen Trya, Gilmore Memorial CEO. “Hospitals and insurance companies have disputes. But the patients and policyholders shouldn’t be pawns in that dispute. All we have ever said to BlueCross is: put us back in network and let’s work behind the scenes with each other to resolve our dispute.”

During the 60-day period, Bryant has directed Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney to investigate if there have been any violations of a 1995 law requiring BlueCross and other insurers to provide their enrollees with “reasonable access to care with minimum inconvenience.” The order will expire seven days after the process is complete. It has no impact on the HMA-BlueCross lawsuit.

In a statement Chaney noted he already had an investigator looking at the issues surrounding the dispute, and his office is studying the details of the governor’s order.

Even before the executive order was formally issued, BlueCross went to federal court to try to block it. In papers filed Friday, BlueCross stated, “The governor’s attempt to act under the color of state authority to dictate the business practices of private parties is an unprecedented act that disregards multiple fundamental rights.” An answer is due from the governor’s office by Nov. 8.

“The matter is now with the Federal Court which will determine the outcome,” said Meredith Virden, BlueCross corporate communications manager. “The court has advised us they will set a hearing date as soon as possible.”

The lawsuit also took personal aim at Bryant, noting he had opposed forcing people to buy health insurance in his opposition to the federal health care overhaul and saying forcing it to contract with HMA for services was a similar situation. It also questioned Bryant’s sincerity in light of his opposition to expanding Medicaid to cover uninsured residents under the overhaul.

“The governor’s sudden interest in access to health care is interesting given that he blocked approximately 300,000 Mississippians from participating in the Medicaid program,” the lawsuit states.

Chaney said his office will continue to work as the federal court considers the governor’s order.

“In the meantime we will continue to do what we have been doing which is to make sure the interests of all parties, especially patients, are protected,” he said.

–––––

Bobby Harrison of the Daily Journal and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

  • lisa5904

    About time someone took insurance companies to task!

  • Thile

    The same guy who says the government should stay out of healthcare, folks.

  • Guest

    How does the governor have the authority to order private company to do anything? He has been against government run health care all along, so why the change of heart now. This sounds like something President Obama would do! I have BCBS and feel Bryant should stay out of it!

  • Raider

    Hold up!! If the governor can order a private company to provide insurance coverage, ain’t that a lot closer to socialism than anything Obama has done? Am I missing something?

  • countrydawg

    Don’t you just hate it when government interferes with big business?

  • Guest Person

    Not that I am a big fan of our Governor but I don’t think his actions are the bigger issue here. My question is how did BCBS get such a monopoly in Mississippi that they can take on 10 hospitals? It seems like every 5 years or so they are in it with one hospital or another. You think they would be so quick to hold providers and customers as pawns if another company or two was here to take up the slack?

  • 1941641

    “The governor’s sudden interest in access to health care is interesting given that he blocked approximately 300,000 Mississippians from participating in the Medicaid program,” the lawsuit states.”

    *******

    Fundie Phil Bryant sure seems to pull a lot of irrational stunts as our governor.

    I’m thinking he is always in a state of utter confusion. But, really, that’s understandable due to the fact that the governor has close ties to a Fundie Christian Right-Wing anti-Obama hate-organization headquartered in Northeast Mississippi. Being one of their puppets-on-a-string is enough to drive any man to do strange things! Or you could just say, “stark-raving mad”!

  • George Barlow

    Why is it that only two Health Care Exchanges exist in Mississippi ?? That will not be good for people who need health care. Maybe the governor will just eliminate health care for Mississippians. Maybe then our elected officials will then go about the business of taking care of their constituents by making sure they have good health care and if they cant do that, then we need to send them to the house !!!

    • Guest Person

      There are only two insurance compaines in the Mississipi exchange because 1. The Republican controlled goverment is against the AHCA and fights it at every step. 2. BCBS has such a monopoly in this state no one can get a real foothold insurance wise.
      In the future it is bad to believe Republicans when they say they are for business and competition in the market – they want to control the markets. If people have access to healthcare and insurance then they don’t feel pressured to stay at low wage jobs.

  • Pingback: Judge blocks Bryant's Blue Cross move | Daily Journal()