BCBS Mississippi, UMMC end bitter dispute

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson have reached a contract agreement, ending one of the more intense payer-provider disputes over reimbursement rates in 2022.

Terms of the in-network agreement are mostly confidential but went into effect Dec. 15. The new contract includes all UMMC facilities and medical professionals for commercial, federal and out-of-state BCBS plans, according to a news release shared with Becker's.

The state's largest payer and provider had been out of network with each other since April 1, a break that affected 750,000 people. UMMC is the state's only academic medical center and operates more than 200 facilities throughout Mississippi, including six hospitals and 30 clinics.

In July, BCBS sued three UMMC executives, alleging they conducted a defamatory public relations campaign against the payer after the contract was terminated. 

A BCBS spokesperson told Becker's the defamation lawsuit "is being dismissed with prejudice."

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney was very publicly outspoken and engaged with the dispute, having urged the two sides to settle the issue through mediation. 

“While this matter drug on far too long and resulted in undue hardship and disregard for many patients and over 750,000 BCBS enrollees, I am thankful that the parties were able to overcome their differences and find common ground," he said Dec. 16. "I sincerely hope that UMMC and BCBSMS will now move forward in a collaborative relationship to provide innovative, accessible and affordable healthcare in our state and will put patients and policyholders as their first priority."

Mr. Chaney said he will be pursuing state legislation in 2023 to avoid similar issues in the future. 

"Unrelated to this network dispute, BCBSMS removed Monroe and Pontotoc County public school health providers from the state health plan networks without notifying the state, last week," he added. "All the public school providers are back in network as of today."

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