Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi is expected to force University of Mississippi Medical Center hospitals, clinics, physicians and other providers out of its commercial insurance network, effective April 1, 2022, as part of the insurance giant’s refusal to agree to a new contract with the state’s only academic medical center and safety net hospital.
The contract covering commercial Blue Cross plans, which are typically provided through an employer, ends March 31. Unless a fair agreement is reached in time, Blue Cross is expected to force UMMC out of its network effective April 1 – negatively impacting access to UMMC’s essential services and physicians. The State and School Employees’ Health Plan, which is managed by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, is not a part of this contract.
UMMC is the state’s only academic medical center, safety net hospital and home to many advanced, specialty services only available in Mississippi at UMMC. It’s essential to the health and well-being of all Mississippians that UMMC continue to advocate strongly for an updated, fair contract with Blue Cross. For many years, Blue Cross has significantly underpaid UMMC for care provided to its members. At stake is UMMC’s ability to reinvest in the health of Mississippi through research, education, advanced technology and the highly trained physicians and care teams needed to provide the best patient care.
UMMC provides unique services such as a Level I trauma center, a children’s hospital, an organ and tissue transplant program and a Level IV neonatal intensive care unit. UMMC treats the sickest of the sick, many of them transferred from hospitals that don’t have the specialty or advanced-level care needed for patients who are traumatically injured, critically ill, suffering from complex health problems and those with the gravest illnesses. In addition, UMMC is the state’s largest educator of specially trained health care professionals and home to the state’s emergency medical services center. UMMC – and its statewide system of more than 200 hospitals, clinics and telehealth sites – is a cornerstone of the state’s network of hospitals and health care providers.
On multiple occasions, Blue Cross has stated and implied through its actions that it does not value the unique role UMMC plays in Mississippi’s health care landscape.
“Blue Cross wants to compare us to other Mississippi hospitals, but there are no hospitals in the state that are like us. Every day we treat patients across Mississippi, many with nowhere else to turn, because they need the specialty physicians found only here at UMMC. We should be compared to other academic medical centers and safety net hospitals just like us,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.
“Mississippians deserve full access to their academic medical center, and we hope that Blue Cross agrees with that and comes to the table ready to partner with us in prioritizing the health and well-being of our patients and all Mississippians.”
UMMC has requested a rate increase “that moves us closer to – not equal to or more than – market rates,” said Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs. “It is essential that UMMC be paid in line with comparable academic medical centers in regional cities like New Orleans, Memphis and Birmingham.”
Blue Cross commercial health insurance members are encouraged to call the Blue Cross customer service number on the back of their membership card to voice concern over Blue Cross’ plan to eliminate UMMC doctors and hospitals from their network.
A dedicated phone line has been established at 601-496-0008 for anyone who has a Blue Cross commercial health plan and has questions about the negotiations. Also, information and updates about the negotiations can be found at UMMCCares.com.