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Chaney: Options Open After Exchange Rejection

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 08 Feb 2013 04:30pm | comments

After 3 years and 4-and-a-half million dollars Mississippi could be dramatically scaling back its plans for a health insurance exchange. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports a federal ruling reigns in Mississippi's attempts to operate its own private health insurance marketplace.

Mississippi had been one of the state’s leading the way on construction of a private health insurance market place for individuals and small businesses.

But, because of a dispute between the Governor and Insurance commission, the federal government will now operate at least the individual market.

"People have no idea what is about to happen to them"

Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney explained to the state health insurance exchange board, the group working to build the program, that Mississippi still has the option of running an insurance exchange for small businesses.

"Just simply means that we would develop a program similar to what we are doing now but it would be specifically geared for 50 and under employees and small businesses. It’s just that simple," Chaney said.

Chaney also told the board that the year’s worth of work constructing an exchange could be given to other states and US Territories.

A letter from the Department of Health and Human Services pointed to Governor Phil Bryant's vocal opposition to a state-based exchange as reason for the denial.

Bryant expressed concern that the exchange would led more people to the Medicaid program....something Chaney told the board could have been avoided if the state had run the exchange.

"And you do the math. 2-thousand dollars times 50 thousands, if that is the minimum we put on. That's 100-million dollars a year we save on matching funds. Now you know what is going to happen? The feds are going to come in, set up the exchange. And instead of putting them on their exchange they are going to shift them to Medicaid and punish the state," Chaney said.

Steve Schouweiler, the board chair and president of the standard life insurance company, says the federal ruling puts the state work in jeopardy.

"Its up in the air. We will work through it over the next few weeks," Schouweiler said.

The federal government invited the state into a 'partnership exchange', a plan that Commissioner Chaney firmly rejected.

The deadline for that decision is Friday.

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