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Commissioner concerned some won't get health insurance

JACKSON — Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says he fears some people won’t be able to get health insurance when enrollment under the federal law opens in October.

The Affordable Care Act was designed to provide affordable health insurance coverage to Americans regardless of income. Open enrollment programs under the act starts in October. The act takes effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Chaney told the Vicksburg Post that confusion over plans, coverages and rates during the enrollment period could discourage some from getting insurance.

“I’m afraid some of the programs may cost too much or people will get upset over the process and not get coverage,” he said.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant rejected a federal offer to expand Medicaid with the federal government paying 100 percent of the costs for the first three years. He also rejected a state insurance exchange, which Chaney said was developed during the administration of then-Gov. Haley Barbour and could have saved the state money.

Federal officials, Chaney said, told the state in February that it would not have a state insurance exchange.

Chaney said Bryant didn’t want to use the insurance exchange because he believed it was embracing the federal law.

“I said, ‘Do you understand that without a state exchange, you’re embracing the Affordable Care Act from the federal government and we forever give the keys to the federal government to control our insurance,'” he said.

Because Bryant rejected using the insurance exchange, Chaney said, “I have no ability to regulate rates on the exchange; they (companies) can charge whatever they want. Because I can’t regulate, I have no authority to handle consumer complaints.”

Chaney said he can ensure the insurance plans conform to state law, and make sure policies cover the state’s mandatory health benefits.

Chaney said a state exchange would have saved the state money by providing insurance coverage to people whose incomes range from 100 percent to 138 percent of the poverty level.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the 2013 poverty level for a single person is $11,490.

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