A federal judge in Jackson could issue a ruling today about the constitutionality of an executive order issued by Governor Phil Bryant. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the governor has ordered the state's largest insurance company to bring 10 hospitals back into its network.
Governor Bryant's order is set to take effect tomorrow, but the insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield says it should be temporarily halted because they believe it is unconstitutional.
U-S District Judge Henry Wingate held a hearing late last week to consider the company's request.
David kaufman, an attorney for Blue Cross, says the Governor overstepped his legal authority by directing the company to put the 10 Health Management Associate hospitals back into its network.
"There was no basis whatsoever to issue the order. We were denied procedure and substantive due process rights. Had no hearings. Basically, the order finds that the company has to put the HMA hospitals back in without any violation of the law," Kaufman said.
Blue Cross and HMA are currently battling over how much the insurance company will pay for procedures.
Before last week's hearing, Bryant said he issued the order because the split threatens Mississippians access to care.
"I had tried every way that I could to bring those parties together. I joined with Attorney General Jim Hood in beliving that an executive order was the only way that we could bring them to the table. And I thought it was the right thing to do. We have got people who are having real life crisises in health care because of this," Bryant said.
Commissioner of Insurance Mike Chaney has also joined the suit on the side of Blue Cross.*
An attorney for Chaney said that Bryant quote-'stepped off the reservation' and is attempting to usurp the power of the commissioner.
State lawyers reject both of those arguments claiming it is within the Governor's right to issue the order and attempt to enforce state law.
Judge Wingate is expected to issue a ruling today, one day before the executive order is set to take effect.
*update: The Department of insurance says they have not joined the lawsuit but have filed a motion in the case: "The Mississippi Legislature created the Mississippi Insurance Department as a separate and distinct department of the executive branch, which is charged with the execution of all laws related to insurance. Involvement in the lawsuit has unfortunately become necessary in order to protect our ability to perform those duties."