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Hospitals rally against Blue Cross Blue Shield

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FLOWOOD, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Health Management Associates is taking its fight against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi a step farther. They've organized community rallies in multiple cities across the state.

HMA sued the insurance company in June. They claimed they weren't getting the money they were owed. Just a week later, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi dropped those 10 hospitals from it's network list a week later.

Since that time, HMA has committed to absorbing the out-of-network costs for patients. However, they're concerned that the hospitals will be in jeopardy as more time passes.

A legislative committee heard the arguments on September 16.

Dozens of new signatures are now showing up on the petition to save HMA owned hospitals. The slogan "Standing Together" is stamped on everything from buttons, to cups, to shirts. But the pleas at the rallies are personal.

"We sent letters to the Representatives and I wrote a note at the bottom. I am a single mom. I'm a widow with three children. Please, I need this job," said Emily Oliver, nurse at Madison River Oaks Hospital.

Oliver has watched co-workers leave for other jobs. She says it's all a domino effect from Blue Cross removing the hospitals from the network list.

"They just were worried so much that they were going to be laid off and they thought that this was a sinking ship. And they knew they had to do something to provide for their family," said Oliver.

Blue Cross states the rallies are just distractions from the real issue. They said it's not about access but about the cost of healthcare.

In a statement BCBS leaders said, "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."

Still, health care professionals and community leaders point their fingers to Blue Cross for the problems.

"I thought being a nurse, I would always have a job and wouldn't have to worry about that. And Blue Cross has taken away from me, away from all of us," explained Woman's Hospital nurse Jessica Ragan.

Ragan is ready to save her hospital. She's watches the numbers of patients shrink everyday.

"At our staffing meetings everyday, we talk about our census and we make sure we're staffed appropriately for the upcoming days. And our surgeries are down, our deliveries are down. It's heartbreaking," Ragan said.

Legislators hope the dispute is resolved soon. But some say they are interested in intro ducting legislation that would essentially eliminate insurance networks for hospitals.

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