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Blue Cross sues UMMC employees over advertising campaign

In a conversation with SuperTalk Mississippi earlier this week, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney insinuated that the dispute between the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) was heading to the courtroom.

That has proved to be true.

On Thursday afternoon, BCBS filed a lawsuit against UMMC employees for their alleged campaign designed to defame the private insurance provider. UMMC, itself, cannot be named as a defendant as state law grants the academic medical center immunity for defamation committed by its employees.

RELATED: Dr. Jennifer Bryan weighs in on UMMC, Blue Cross stalemate

BCBS claims that Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine Dr. LouAnn Woodward, Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs Dr. Alan Jones, and Executive Director of Communications and Marketing Marc Rolph “initiated and continued a far-reaching public relations campaign designed to disseminate false and defamatory statements about BCBSMS to the public.”

According to Jackson Jambalaya, UMMC has spent $278,796 advertising against BCBS since the two’s divorce on April 1. Billboards with phrases such as “Blue Cross could cause you to drive hours to another children’s hospital” can be found in at least nine different Mississippi cities.

The lawsuit, which comes nearly four months after UMMC was dropped from BCBS due to an inability to agree on reimbursement values, was filed in the Rankin County Chancery Court.

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