Communications from media outlets Mississippi Today and SuperTalk Mississippi specified in subpoena in BCBS defamation suit against UMMC.
In the continued insurance coverage renewal battle between the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi (BCBS), Blue Cross has subpoenaed multiple individual officials about their communications specifically with two Mississippi news outlets in the current defamation suit it has with the medical center’s leadership.
BCBS claims that employees of the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) engaged in a defamatory public relations campaign against the company.
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In the subpoena to UMMC, BCBS requests any correspondence between UMMC and media outlets but went further to specify Mississippi Today, and reporter Kate Royals specifically, as well as SuperTalk Mississippi.
In item 6 of the requested documents, the subpoena states:
“For the period of July 1, 2021, to the present, produce all documents, including without limitation all emails, text messages, written communications and memoranda (including drafts) between UMMC or any UMMC Consultant, on one hand, and the media or any member of the media, on the other hand, concerning or related to BCBSMS, BCBS members, the UMMC/BCBSMS Dispute or the UMMC Public Relations Campaign. For purposes of this request, “media” and “member of the media” shall include, without limitations, the Mississippi Today, Kate Royals, and SuperTalk Mississippi Media.”
Kate Royals, Mississippi Today’s community health editor since January 2022, worked as a writer/editor for UMMC’s Office of Communications from November 2018 through August 2020, writing press releases and features about the medical center’s schools of dentistry and nursing. A longtime journalist in major Mississippi newsrooms, Royals had served as a Mississippi Today reporter for two years before her stint at UMMC. At UMMC, Royals was in no way involved in management decisions or anything related to the medical center’s relationship or contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi.
UMMC in 2022 began sponsorship of a podcast produced by Mississippi Today called “The Other Side.”
Three types of responses were requested as part of the subpoena. They include UMMC and communications between the hospital and the media, the Mississippi State Medical Association, employees, consulting firms, or any other entities that were engaged in information regarding the dispute between the two entities, or the social media campaign UMMC engaged in that BCBS is claiming as defamation.
Also included are subpoenas for Lamar Advertising and Revive Marketing, LLC., which were contracted by UMMC to create and distribute the media campaign targeting Blue Cross Blue Shield in question.
It was first reported by Jackson Jambalaya that UMMC has so far spent $278,796 in the public campaign against BCBS which included the purchase of outdoor billboard space with Lamar Advertising for $36,514. These billboards can be seen in Jackson, Gluckstadt, Yazoo City, Grenada, Kosciusko, Greenwood and Winona. The other $242,282 was spent through Revive Marketing out of Nashville, Tennessee. Those expenses nor the outlets or media where advertising buys were made on behalf of UMMC were itemized in the public records results.
When asked where the money for these campaigns came from, Marc Rolph, UMMC’s Executive Director over Communications and Marketing, told Y’all Politics on July 26th that the funds were from “health system revenue accounts,” or essentially patient operations.
At the same time, BCBS claims that UMMC is requesting a 30% increase this year and 50% over the next several years, for specific services covered in their benefits agreement, a number BCBS says is significantly higher than other network providers.
You can view the subpoenas below.