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Head of health plans group says legislative momentum growing for state control of insurance exchange

healthcare reform_rgbCLINTON — The CEO of the Mississippi Association of Health Plans says it is likely that state lawmakers will try to shift Mississippi’s health insurance exchange away from federal control to state control within a year.

Jeff Drozda, who served in the Indiana Senate for a half dozen years and is a former lobbyist for United Healthcare, said momentum is growing among Mississippi legislators to put the insurance market exchange under state control. He is not predicting, however, that legislators can overcome the opposition of Gov. Phil Bryant for the state to have role in initiatives that involve the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is popularly known.

“There probably will be legislation in the state to take the exchange away from the federal government and give it to the state,” Drozda told a luncheon audience at the 4th annual Mississippi Health Care Reform Summit at Mississippi College in Clinton Tuesday.

He said sentiment is growing the state’s lawmakers for the idea that the state should control something as important as the insurance exchange. “They want to make it a Mississippi exchange,” he said.

In an interview after his talk, Drozda said once the state takes control of the exchange it will have to pay to operate it. The federal government made about $20 million available for the state to prepare the exchange but did not release the money after Mississippi decided to let the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services build the exchange which offers health insurance plans — many of which are subsidized — to uninsured Mississippians.

Open enrolment started Oct. 1 and the plans go into effect Jan. 1. The Mississippi exchange website has been plagued with glitches all week, as have other federally run exchange websites. Federal officials say they are adding servers and new capacity daily and vow to work the bugs out of the sites they built and operate.

Only two insurers — Magnolia Health and Humana — signed up to provide coverage on the Mississippi health care exchange. Most counties have only one of the two providing coverage. Only Hinds, Rankin, Madison and Desoto counties have plans offered by both carriers.

Drozda said he expects that will change as early as next year with the possible entry of UnitedHealth, Cigna and Aetna onto the exchange.

“They just want to see what the regulatory parameters are,” he said.

— Ted Carter / MBJ

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