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Chaney disputes report; hasn't shelved insurance exchange plans

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says details for an online marketplace for Mississippians to shop for insurance policies are place and nothing further needs to be done until after the November election.

A Chaney spokesman told the Associated Press on Friday that it was incorrect to suggest that plan has been placed on hold. Spokesman Joseph Ammerman said the next deadline is Nov. 16 for submission of plans for a state-run health insurance exchange to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

On Wednesday, Chaney told opponents if Mississippi designs its own exchange it can tailor offerings to the needs of the state.

On Thursday, in a statement Chaney said: “Presently, we are far enough along in creating a free-market exchange, without provisions of the Affordable Care Act, that we do not have to make any final decision until after the November election, at which time we can make an intelligent and informed decision.”

A state-run exchange would allow Mississippians to shop an online insurance marketplace for comparable rates and provisions. States that do not create a health insurance exchange by 2014 will be forced to adopt a federally run program.

More than 30 tea party members attended a meeting Wednesday of a committee that’s drafting recommendations to Chaney for how Mississippi’s exchange should look. They wanted Chaney to abandon the state-run program.

Chaney has said he doesn’t like the Affordable Care Act, but it was the law whether opponents liked it or not.

Opponents have said the way the law is structured, there’s no money available for the federal government to run state exchanges. They said there is a chance that opting out will mean Mississippi has no exchange.

Chaney said Wednesday that it’s incorrect to think there will be no federal action if the state gives up. He said opting out will mean worse options and less control for Mississippi.

“We are trying to do what’s in the best interest of the state based on known facts,” Chaney said.

Chaney has said the state’s exchange could be ready for federal approval in 60 to 90 days.

Gov. Phil Bryant has expressed opposition to the health care overhaul law. On Thursday, he praised Chaney’s decision.

. “Gov. Bryant has already stated his opposition to any system that would encourage Obamacare in the state of Mississippi,” said spokesman Mick Bullock.

Mississippi received $20 million from the federal government in August 2011 to move forward on starting its health care exchange program.

Twelve other states and Washington, D.C., received grants totaling $165 million at the same time, but Mississippi’s was among the highest.

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