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Blue Cross sues top UMMC officials over PR campaign

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi is suing several top University of Mississippi Medical Center employees, alleging defamation and civil conspiracy over the public relations campaign the hospital has been waging against the insurer due to their contract dispute. 

Blue Cross filed a lawsuit in Rankin County’s circuit court on Thursday against UMMC employees LouAnn Woodward, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine, Alan Jones, Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs, Marc Rolph, Executive Director of Communications and Marketing, and other unnamed UMMC employees.

Rolph declined to comment on the lawsuit.

UMMC itself is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit because state law grants UMMC immunity for defamation committed by its employees. 

UMMC has been out of network with Blue Cross, the state’s largest insurer, since April 1 due to disagreements over reimbursement rates and Blue Cross’ quality care plan. Since then, UMMC has spent nearly $279,000 on digital ads, commercials and billboards attacking the insurer.

In the lawsuit, Blue Cross alleges that the public relations campaign was “designed to disseminate false and defamatory statements about Blue Cross to the public.”

Blue Cross’ major issue with the campaign’s advertisements and various public statements the defendant’s have made is that they allege Blue Cross ended its contract with UMMC and the insurer has “excluded” UMMC from its network of providers as a result. Since UMMC voluntarily ended its contracts with Blue Cross, the insurer claims UMMC’s campaign is defamatory and has harmed its reputation and business.

The insurer also claims in the lawsuit that other public comments UMMC officials have made related to the contract dispute are false. These include claims that Blue Cross has not increased its reimbursement rates to UMMC since 2018 and that UMMC was not responsible for removing transplant patients insured by Blue Cross from their transplant lists. 

Blue Cross is seeking an injunction against the continued publication and dissemination of the statements it considers defamatory as well as monetary damages from each of the defendants. 

Read the full complaint here:

Editor’s note: UMMC, through an ad agency, has placed paid advertisements about the BCBS dispute on Mississippi Today’s website. Advertisers have no input in the editorial process.

The post Blue Cross sues top UMMC officials over PR campaign appeared first on Mississippi Today.

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