By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON — U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate said he plans to rule Monday on whether Gov. Phil Bryant can issue an executive order forcing Blue Cross & Blue Shield to re-instate to its network 10 privately owned hospitals across the state.
During a three hour hearing at the Federal Courthouse Friday, attorneys for Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney and for Blue Cross argued Bryant usurped the authority of the insurance commissioner in re-instating the hospitals.
Harold Pizzetta, an assistant attorney general and one of the office’s primary litigators, told Wingate that the issue of whether Bryant had the authority should be decided by a state court opposed to a federal court. But he said it is clear under the state Constitution that Bryant had the authority to issue an executive order if he found evidence that access to health care was compromised.
The dispute arose when Blue Cross dropped 10 hospitals owned by Florida-based Health Management Associated from its network in September in midst of a dispute over how much the hospitals should be reimbursed by the state’s biggest provider of health insurance.
In the midst of the dispute, Blue Cross already has restored four HMA hospitals to its network, including Gilmore Memorial in Amory.