It has been nearly five months since the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi parted ways.
Instead of bridging the divide, a new lawsuit could create a wider gap between the hospital system and one of the state’s largest health insurers.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi filed the lawsuit Thursday against UMMC Vice Chancellor Louann Woodward, Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs Dr. Alan Jones, Executive Director of Communications and Marketing Marc Rolph and other unnamed employees for “initiating and continuing a far-reaching public relations campaign designed to disseminate false and defamatory statements about Blue Cross to the public.”
According to the lawsuit, “The central contention in Defendants’ campaign is that Blue Cross terminated its contract with UMMC and thus “forced,” “dropped” and “excluded” UMMC from Blue Cross’ healthcare provider network, which prevents Blue Cross members from receiving medical care from UMMC.
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“Defendants’ public statements are demonstrably false: UMMC voluntarily terminated its contracts with Blue Cross. And it is UMMC, not Blue Cross, who is denying Blue Cross Members medical treatment at UMMC. Defendants’ untrue statements are defamatory and were designed to cause, and have caused, damage to Blue Cross’ reputation and business.”
UMMC declined to renew its contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield after failed negotiations that began some time in 2021 and ended in late March. The contract expired at midnight April 1.
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UMMC wanted Blue Cross to pay the hospital system more for its services to its Mississippi members. Blue Cross said the demands would negatively impact costs for its customers by taking the medical center out of its in-network providers.
However, UMMC claimed Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi underpaid the system for years and wanted an overall increase as well as for certain services.
An employee with the Brunini, Grantham, Grower and Hewes law firm said by policy the firm does not comment on client cases.
UMMC officials declined to comment on the lawsuit. Attorneys for the defendants have not yet filed their responses to the lawsuit.
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Communities Editor Scott Hawkins and American South reporter Maria Clark contributed to this story.
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