May 24, 2024 9:00am

Looking for a BlueCross-Memorial resolution

Gov. Bill Lee viewed more favorably than legislators

Photo of Chris Vass
Chattanooga, TN Correspondent

No one particularly likes seeing the sausage being made, but all eyes will be on BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and CHI Memorial Health System in coming weeks as the insurer and hospital wrestle over critical contracts that are due to expire June 30 and threaten to disrupt health services for tens of thousands of patients.

At issue are agreements between BlueCross and Memorial for Network P, Medicare Advantage and BlueCare. BlueCross recently announced that it will replace Memorial in its popular Network S plan with HCA Parkridge Health System; Erlanger will remains in Network S.

Contract negotiations typically take place in board rooms, but increasingly disputes between insurers and hospital systems spill out into the open, where both sides seek to gain support — and therefore public pressure — for one side or the other to blink.

And typically, these disputes are resolved.

A plurality of Chattanooga Power Poll members think the two health care giants will come to agreement and dodge what would be a massive realignment of health care delivery in this market.

In answer to the question in this week’s Power Poll, “Do you think they will resolve their differences and ink a new deal before June 30, when the current contract expires,” hope springs eternal: 41% said “yes” while 33% said “no.”

A quarter — 26% — indicated they are unsure, which is understandable since the only people who really know the status of negotiations, or whether there even are negotiations ongoing — are the executives in that boardroom.

As the standoff persists, plenty of people are weighing their options and considering whether to switch doctors or sit tight.

Power Poll members were equally split on the, well, potential split.

A little more than half — 54% — said they and their family “would be affected if BlueCross and Memorial are unable to reach a new agreement while 46% said “no.”

The clock is ticking. June 30 will be here before we know it.

Turning to a broad assessment of Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee and the GOP supermajority General Assembly in the just-finished legislative session, Power Poll members graded the governor more favorably than lawmakers.

Forty-four percent of survey respondents gave Lee an “A” or “B” for his leadership and 27% gave him a “D” or “F.”

State lawmakers did not fare as well; grades were more harsh: 34% of poll respondents gave the legislature an “A” or “B” while 40% handed lawmakers a “D” or “F.”

While legislators drew their fair share of criticism, even scorn, this year, one Power Poll member offered up praise to Chattanooga’s delegation.

“Credit goes to Chattanooga’s legislative delegation for supporting a number of smart bills passed this year that will improve public safety and affordable housing in Chattanooga going for many years to come,” Ellis Smith, director of intergovernmental and external affairs for the city of Chattanooga, wrote. “And while we too quickly forget the bad things that could have happened but didn’t, our legislators also deserve special thanks for helping to defeat or fix a large number of misguided bills proposed by others that would have hampered services and harmed our quality of life.”

Serving in the legislature, Smith noted, “is a tough occupation … but we must all do a better job of recognizing the difficult work they perform behind the scenes to build a better tomorrow.”

And finally, on the "blow off some steam/distraction/what should we do this weekend front," the nonstop flights from Chattanooga to Sin City introduced last week won't be enough to tempt Power Pollers to visit Vegas.

In answer to, "will you be more likely visit Las Vegas now with nonstop flights from Chattanooga," 56% of respondents said "no" and 44% said "yes."

Here's hoping more area residents will be willing to take a gamble and book a flight.

Email Chris Vass, public editor at the Times Free Press, at cvass@timesfreepress or

Power Poll Members: Do you have a friend or colleague who should be on Power Poll? Please invite them to join!

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

More on This Poll

More Polls

More on This Poll