Children’s Hospital of Alabama

Children’s Hospital of Alabama has severed its contract with Mississippi Medicaid, a representative for the hospital confirmed Friday.

As a result, the hospital will no longer accept insurance for any of the 375,000 children currently covered through Medicaid in Mississippi. This does not affect Medicaid’s coverage with any Mississippi-based providers.

The Birmingham-based Children’s said in a statement that the hospital and Mississippi’s Division of Medicaid were not able to “successfully negotiate (a contract) with satisfactory terms.”

“Children’s of Alabama regrets that we will no longer accept Mississippi Medicaid patients, for whom it has been our privilege to provide care,” said Adam Kelly, manager of corporate communications at Children’s of Alabama.

Although hundreds of thousands of children are enrolled in one of Mississippi Medicair’s programs, the number of children likely affected is much smaller. Since 2015, only 124 Mississippi Medicaid patients have received treatment at either Children’s or their other facility, Children’s South Pediatric Outpatient Center, also in Birmingham.

Discontinued insurance plans at Children’s include not just regular Medicaid but also both of its managed care companies. This includes Magnolia Health Plan, Magnolia Health CHIP, United Healthcare Community Plan and United Healthcare CHIP (managed care programs under MississippiCAN and Mississippi CHIP). Patients with private United Healthcare and Magnolia insurance plans are not affected.

“Children’s of Alabama is committed to helping affected patient families through this transition to services available in Mississippi that are provided by in-state and in-network providers,” Kelly said in a statement.

Children’s is the first hospital in recent memory to abruptly sever ties with all of Mississippi Medicaid. But United Healthcare, which operates one of Medicaid’s two managed care companies in the state, has had trouble negotiating contracts with Mississippi hospitals over the last few years.

Two years ago, Forrest General in Hattiesburg sent a contract termination letter to United, which hospital CEO Evan Dillard said was due to non-payment. Dillard said the renegotiation turned into a “big fight,” but ultimately United and Forrest General were able to renegotiate with new rates without interrupting services or coverage.

Then this fall, North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo took out a full page advertisement in a local newspaper accusing the insurance giant of not reimbursing the hospital for services. In December, North Mississippi announced that the hospital had agreed to renegotiate its contract with United.

Although Mississippi has its own children’s hospital, Batson in Jackson, many Mississippians have long sought care outside of the state for a number of reasons, including proximity to and variety of services. Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis also treats Mississippi Medicaid patients.

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Larrison Campbell is a Greenville native who reports on politics with an emphasis on public health. She received a bachelor’s from Wesleyan University and a master’s from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.Larrison is a 2018 National Press Foundation fellow in public health, a 2019 Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts fellow in health care reporting and a 2019 Center for Health Journalism National Fellow.