Gov. Phil Bryant is backing hospital chain Health Management Associates in its spat with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi. The governor issued an executive order to force the insurer to include HMA's hospitals in its network. Now the Blues carrier is fighting back in federal court, calling the order unconstitutional and questioning the governor's motives.
The Mississippi Blues dropped 10 HMA hospitals in July, just weeks after HMA sued the insurer, alleging the hospitals were paid below contracted rates for two years.
Now the insurer is asking for a temporary restraining order against the governor's mandate. The lawsuit also states that the contract dispute with HMA is not about access to care, but the “exorbitant prices” HMA charges.
The Blues' lawsuit also takes aim at Bryant, alleging that he has a conflict of interest because an immediate family member is a lawyer with the firm representing HMA in the dispute.
“The governor's sudden interest in access to healthcare is interesting given that he blocked approximately 300,000 Mississippians from participating in the Medicaid program,” the Blues plan said in the suit, slamming Bryant for his position against expanding Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “Instead, the governor's actions appear to be motivated by politics and money.”
Bryant emphasized that the order is not intended to take sides on the payment dispute. A news release from his office obliquely addresses the insurer's statements about him by quoting Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, who called them “unprofessional at best” and “counterproductive to our primary goal—to protect Mississippians' access to healthcare.”
A medical helicopter heading to pick up a sick child made an unusual course change before it crashed and burned in a wooded area in West Tennessee
, according to an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.
Two workers from Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis and the pilot died Oct. 22 when the helicopter rammed into the ground and caught fire while on the way to pick up the child in Bolivar, Tenn. The helicopter crashed in Somerville, Tenn., about 45 miles east of Memphis.
There's no indication the pilot of the three-bladed Eurocopter transmitted that he had a problem before the aircraft crashed, the NTSB investigator said. A preliminary report is expected this week, and a final report could take nine months to a year or more.
The helicopter was operated by Hospital Wing, which uses seven helicopters to take patients to hospitals within a 150-mile radius of Memphis. Another Hospital Wing helicopter crashed in West Tennessee in March 2010, when the pilot tried to outrun a storm. That crash killed the pilot and two nurses.
In 2008, the NTSB put emergency medical flights on its “most wanted improvements” list after the industry suffered a record 28 fatalities in seven crashes that year. There was only one death in 2011 and again in 2012, but 2013 has seen five fatal helicopter EMS crashes with 12 killed.