As you know, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island and Landmark Medical Center have agreed to take their complaints about each other out of the courtroom and into a mediation session.
This week, Judge Michael Silverstein appointed a mediator to help the two sides smooth out their arguments over everything from reimbursement rates to outstanding debts.
My co-worker Elisabeth Harrison used to work for a lawyer, so she told me about the bizarre routine for conducting these mediation sessions. It’s not what I imagined- a big wooden table with each party sitting on either side, locked in a room until they can come to an agreement. You actually sit in separate rooms for most of the time, with the mediator bringing messages back and forth.
William Dolan describes the process this way-
Typically we’ll meet all together and try to outline or hear all of the parties’ positions, and then the standard procedure that typically follows is the mediator will break out the parties- that is put them in separate rooms and talk to each one of them individually and then endeavor through that process and further discussions that go on, endeavor to find some common ground where parties might be willing to compromise.
So Blue Cross will sit in one room and Landmark will sit in the other. Steward will be in another room, or perhaps with Landmark? And they’ll sit and wait for messages from each other. Dolan says it’s hard to predict how long the process will take.
I’ve seen them go on fro hours. I’ve seen them go on for days. I’ve seen them go on for weeks- not concurrently, but over time. So, it’s a function of how earnest the parties are, whether they’re making progress and whether they feel like additional time spent will be worthwhile.
Dolan says the parties haven’t set a date yet, but they’re hoping to meet in the first half of April. Does he think they have a chance at working this out?
I’m always optimistic that parties can resolve their differences. I’ve served as a mediator probably 40 or 50 times and 90% of those cases resolve themselves… So I’m going into this with unbridled optimism, but with the experience of understanding that some cases don’t resolve themselves and can’t. But I don’t think this is one of those because the dollars at stake and the issues at stake are ones that should result in a business solution.
There’s an interesting twist to this mediation- the judge has asked Health Insurance Commissioner Christopher Koller to participate in the process. He won’t be the mediator, but perhaps he’ll weigh in on issues related to reimbursement rates? This is how Koller explains his role-
As I understand it my role would be to provide information to help the mediator make a proposal to the parties.
Let’s hope the mediation doesn’t go on for days and days. All of these folks have some important day jobs to attend to.