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HMA hospitals reinstated by Bryant

By Rupert Howell

Moving forward seems to be the description most suited for Tri-Lakes Medical Center this week as Governor Phil Bryant issued an executive order on Tuesday reinstating local hospital owner HMA’s 10 Mississippi owned hospitals to Blue Cross & Blue Shield’s provider network.

The announcement came late Tuesday just prior to a Tri-Lakes open house honoring three new doctors at that facility and a day before a groundbreaking of nearby medical office buildings (whose ground has actually been broken for awhile with construction well underway).

A temporary restraining order filed by Blue Cross on Wednesday challenges Bryant’s executive order.

While the two entities were previously renegotiating their contract, Blue Cross dropped Tri-Lakes and nine other HMA owned medical facilities from their network in September soon after HMA sued Blue Cross in June, claiming they weren’t  paying adequately for services under their agreement. Blue Cross responded, stating HMA hospitals charge excessively. 

Monday Blue Cross said it  would again recognize four of the hospitals, Woman’s Hospital in Flowood, Gilmore Regional Medical Center in Amory, Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center in Clarksdale and Tri-Lakes as being in-network. 

Those facilities are the only ones of their kind in their respective areas. 

The governor’s order is based on the Mississippi Patient Protection Act of 1995 that requires insurers to provide their clients with “reasonable access to care with minimum inconvenience.”

Now, in a federal-court complaint, Blue Cross claims Bryant has a conflict of interest, in part because he has received nearly $500,000, collectively, from HMA, its law firm and lobbying firms, according to a report in Wednesday’s Clarion-Ledger.

“But,” the Clarion-Ledger report states, “ it would also appear that while Blue Cross hasn’t made substantial campaign contributions, its law firm, Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes, its lawyers and others have also given thousands to Bryant over his years in state office.”

The Clarion-Ledger story also states that Bryan and his staff have consulted with Attorney General Jim Hood throughout the process and Hood commented in the same story, “Inflammatory comments made by Blue Cross in its legal filings about the governor are unprofessional at best, and are counterproductive to our primary goal — to protect Mississippians’ access to healthcare.”

Bryant’s order is temporary, to give state Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney time to finish an investigation into whether Blue Cross’ network would be adequate in terms of patient access under state law without the HMA hospitals being part of that network, according to the Clarion-Ledger report.

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