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Clock is ticking on contract between UMMC and Blue Cross & Blue Shield

Photo courtesy of UMMC

As the end of the month approaches, so could the contract between the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi.

BCBS is the state’s largest private medical insurer while UMMC is the state’s largest health care provider, yet the insurance giant is refusing to agree to a new contract with UMMC. Why though?

According to Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs, the standstill has come over UMMC’s request for a reimbursement rate increase of “not even what other academic medical centers are being paid in other states.” The increase that UMMC is requesting is comparable to what academic medical centers in Birmingham, Memphis, and New Orleans are currently receiving.

“Blue Cross takes the stance — and I’ve been told this directly to my face — that our hospital is the same as everybody else’s and our doctors are the same as everybody else’s,” Woodward explained on a recent episode of The Gallo Show. “And the comment was made that ‘we’re not going to pay you any more as you’re not different than anyone else.'”

BCBS has not responded to a request for comment on talks that led up to the expiring contract. However, regarding the notion that UMMC is no different than other hospitals around the state of Mississippi, that is simply untrue.

On top of being the state’s lone academic medical center and safety net hospital, UMMC is home to the state’s only Level 1 trauma center, children’s hospital, pediatric emergency room, OB/GYN emergency room, and bone marrow transplant unit.

With those services being only available at UMMC, other hospitals around the state transfer patients to UMMC at a constant rate.

“My counter to [BCBS] is ‘my goodness, the proof is in the transfer log,'” Woodward said. “Every single day, day after day, to the tune of more than a thousand a month, we take transfer patients from hospitals all around the state of Mississippi because they need a higher level of care.”

As the clock continues to tick towards April 1, UMMC is encouraging Blue Cross commercial insurance members to call 601-496-0008 and express their concerns over the possibility of UMMC doctors, hospitals, and services being eliminated from the company’s network.

“My concern is for the individuals. I want our unique services to be available to all of the citizens of Mississippi who might need those,” Woodward said.

Users of the State and School Employees’ Health Plan, which is managed by BCBS, will not be affected by the expiring contract. To stay up to date with negotiations between UMMC and BCBS, click here.

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