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AMORY, Miss. (WCBI)- Armed with “Save my hospital” signs, hundreds of Gilmore Memorial Regional Medical Center staff members and Amory residents crowded the hospital lobby.

Their message made clear: the current dispute between them and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi must end.

“In June, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi kicked all 10 of those hospitals out of network effective September 1st. So Gilmore is now a month and a half into being out-of-network. We met with citizens to discuss the economic impact this could potentially have as a down stream effect,” said Allen Tyra, CEO of Gilmore Memorial.

Gilmore is now considered out-of-network leaving Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi policyholders with few options. Allen Tyra, Gilmore’s CEO says if this stalemate continues, it will impact the city.

“If the hospital is not here, Amory does not exist as we know Amory today. We’ve seen a significant decrease in our volumes by being an out-of-network facility so without volumes, you don’t need as many people working in your hospitals, the physicians are looking to take cases elsewhere, the spillover of all the money the hospital generates within the community suddenly is not flowing to the restaurants or the dress shops or out into the retail community,” said Tyra.

Amory resident, Mary Westerlund supports the hospital.

“I think the thing that I find most offensive and shocking about their behavior is to know that they’ve had record profits for more than 10 years every year and this is nothing but corporate greed,” said Westerlund.

So does Senator Hob Bryan.

Now if they have a dispute about payment that’s a different matter, you can have that. But they shouldn’t use their policyholders as pawns in this dispute. The people that are worried about what Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi is doing should be worried and they’re right to be worried. Blue Cross is not doing the right thing here,” said Senator Bryan.

Meredith Virden, Manager of Corporate Communications with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi did release this statement:

“Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi’s commitment has always been, and will continue to be, to work on our members’ behalf to manage the cost of their healthcare services. This includes working with our Network Providers across the state to ensure access to healthcare services and the best Network Provider price for those services. We are a Mississippi company dedicated to the health of Mississippians.

For Blue Cross Blue Shield members, emergency services continue to be covered at Network level benefits at any hospital. For covered elective services (services that can be scheduled), the member has the choice of a Network or Non-Network Hospital. If the member chooses the Non-Network Hospital, benefits are provided for covered services at the Non-Network level based on their benefit plan.

The facts are that HMA area hospitals charge their patients significantly more than other area Network Hospitals charge their patients – in some cases more than double the charges. HMA sued Blue Cross because it wants to be paid more, not because it wants to charge its patients less.

HMA’s allegations that Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi has refused to try and resolve this contract issue is false. Blue Cross has advised HMA numerous times that it is willing to re-contract with some HMA hospitals if HMA would permanently dismiss its baseless lawsuit. HMA has refused.

Blue Cross will continue to contract with Network Providers who share our commitment to providing quality healthcare and managing costs. In this time of healthcare reform, we must remain focused on affordable healthcare for Mississippians.”

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