Judge blocks Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant in insurance dispute between Blue Cross and HMA

The Health Management Associates headquarters at 5811 Pelican Bay Boulevard in Naples on Tuesday, June 25, 2013.

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The Health Management Associates headquarters at 5811 Pelican Bay Boulevard in Naples on Tuesday, June 25, 2013.

— A federal judge Monday blocked Gov. Phil Bryant from intervening in a contract dispute between Mississippi's largest health insurer and a company that owns 10 hospitals in the state.

U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate issued a temporary restraining order to block an executive order that Bryant issued last week. Wingate's ruling said Bryant hasn't provided enough proof to justify his order.

The order would've required Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi to resume paying in-network rates at hospitals owned by Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates, starting Tuesday.

Wingate said he had set a Nov. 5 hearing to further explore Bryant's claims of harm that patients would suffer.

"The executive order leans heavily on threatened harm verified primarily by anecdotal assertion," Wingate said. "The hearing will determine the facts undergirding those assertions."

Wingate emphasized that he was not calling Bryant's order illegal. However, he said that Blue Cross had met the legal hurdles for him to freeze the status quo and keep the 10 hospitals owned by HMA of Naples, Fla., out of the insurer's network.

If Blue Cross had not won the restraining order, it would have faced Bryant's command to resume higher in-network payments Tuesday. Blue Cross argued before Wingate that Bryant's order was unconstitutional because the insurer didn't get a due process hearing and it violated its constitutional right to contract and federal equal protection mandates.

Bryant said that without the hospitals, Blue Cross would have an insufficient network under state law.

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