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First Premiums for Mississippi Insurance Exchange Released

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 12 Aug 2013 08:00am | comments

Uninsured Mississippians are finally getting a chance to learn what private insurance might cost them when they are able to enroll in the health insurance exchange this fall.  Early premiums out of northeast Mississippi show promise for the rest of the state.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says he has approved rates for one insurance company, Humana, to sell their products on the insurance exchange.

 For a healthy young person, Chaney says premiums will start around $300 but for older adults that number will climb.

 "Bottom line is that when you turn 30 you are looking at sticker shock on insurance. So if a 64-year old pays $900 a month for health insurance that means the 30 year old must pay $300 at a minimum at a 3 to 1 ratio," Chaney said.

 However, a key feature of the exchange is that it facilitates federal government tax credits that will offset and dramatically lower the rate Mississippians actually pay for that insurance.

 Jarvis Dortch with the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program says the subsidies could drop the premium from $300 to around $100  for poorer families.

 "Talking about grocery workers. Fast food workers. People working in factories. People making $30,000 to $40,000, they are going to pay about 2 to 3% of their income. So they are not going to pay that sticker price of $200 to $300 that you are seeing in the news," Dortch said.

 These rates are only for one region of the state...There are six regions that can all be rated differently, but they will likely fall close together.

 Commissioner Chaney says having insurance coverage statewide could save as many as 21 hospitals from closing but he still worries about the cost driving people away.

 "The problem is that a 30-year old can pay that same insurance today on the open market for $100,000. So they are looking at a 200% increase. And that is an issue for us we are trying to address with the federal government. It is a nightmare," Chaney said.

 While it is true that the plans on the exchange will be more expensive, they will also be much more comprehensive and stable says Dortch.

 "It is like comparing buying a bike to buying a car. You are going to get something that is going to get you much further with your insurance than you can get right now. Basically you are getting a basic plan right now that can skyrocket and have high deductibles but that won't be avaivlable to you under the market place," Dortch said.

 The rates are comparable to other parts of the country, which is good news since some expected them to be much higher because of Mississippi's poor public health.

 An estimated 275,000 Mississippians are expected to be eligible for the exchange.

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