Mediations suspended 6 months in: Tracking the BCBS, U of Mississippi dispute

More than six months after Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi went out of network with Jackson-based University of Mississippi Medical Center, the sides remain without a contract. Several weeks without progress led the state's insurance commissioner to suspend mediations indefinitely Oct. 11.  

Below is a timeline of the dispute between the provider and payer: 

February: The medical center notifies patients that it is negotiating with BCBS of Mississippi over the parties' network contract. The sides need to agree to a new contract by March 31 or BCBS patients will be out of network. The medical center initiates negotiations, asking the payer for higher reimbursement rates.

April 1: BCBS of Mississippi drops the medical center's hospitals, clinics and physicians from its network after the sides are unable to agree on a new contract. In the last 18 months, more than 50,000 patients with a qualifying BCBS plan received care at a medical center facility, a medical center spokesperson tells Becker's.

April 21: Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney urges the state's largest hospital and insurer to resolve their dispute, writing that a split would have a devastating impact on patients. The sides agree to go to a mediator. 

May 9: The payer and provider agree to have Walter Johnson serve as the mediator in their dispute. Mr. Johnson, senior counsel at the law firm Watkins & Eager, has mediated hundreds of cases since 1994.  

June 7: Mr. Chaney says negotiations are "moving at a snail's pace." 

July 1: A 90-day grace period for in-network care coverage expires, prompting Mr. Chaney to send a letter to BCBS informing it that the state will conduct an examination to determine whether the company is following state network adequacy regulations.

July 27: Mr. Chaney says the state's insurance department received multiple complaints from patients who have been told by their physicians they cannot receive care at the medical center because they are insured by BCBS. He says he believes turning away patients would violate a state law that says the medical center “shall be utilized to serve the people of Mississippi generally."

July 28: BCBS sues three medical center executives, alleging they conducted a defamatory public relations campaign against the payer after the contract was terminated.

Sept. 20: Mr. Chaney tells Mississippi Today he has not had any contact with either party or the mediator since before Sept. 5. 

Oct. 3: Mr. Chaney tells members of the state's House and Senate Insurance Committee to consider legislation that would prevent network contracts between providers and insurers from being canceled outside of a 90-day window before an open enrollment period. 

Oct. 11: Mr. Chaney suspends mediations indefinitely after six weeks without progress. He says he predicts the sides will come to an agreement in the next few weeks, "and if not, we'll let the Legislature and the governor decide what they want to do." 

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