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Chaney reports low participation in health exchange

Q&A-ChaneyJACKSON — Fewer than 150 Mississippi residents have signed up for coverage through a federally run health insurance website, the state insurance commissioner said yesterday.

Mike Chaney told The Associated Press that enrollment has been slow in Mississippi, as in other states, because of problems with the website that opened Oct. 1 — www.healthcare.gov .

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is scheduled to release enrollment figures in the next few days for the 36 states that are part of the federally run health exchange, or online marketplace. Coverage is scheduled to begin Jan. 1.

Mississippi, with a population of just under 3 million, is one of the poorest states in the nation. The nonprofit Mississippi Health Advocacy Program estimates more than 275,000 uninsured state residents could try to sign up for coverage through the federal website.

The Health Advocacy Program supports the federal health overhaul that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010. It’s working with other community groups and health care providers in a “Cover Mississippi” coalition that’s holding enrollment events, including one set for Friday at Metrocenter Mall in Jackson. But, Morgan Miller, a spokeswoman for the coalition, said it’s using paper forms because of problems with the federal website.

Chaney said an application on a paper form “doesn’t mean anything.” He said people who fill out paper forms need to make sure their information is entered online.

“The paper applications have to go to the Web portal to be verified,” Chaney said. “You don’t have a policy until you fill out the application, get the information verified … and submit your money.”

Two private companies are selling health insurance policies in Mississippi through the federally run website. Magnolia Health Plan, a unit of St. Louis-based Centene Corp., will offer plans in 47 of Mississippi’s 82 counties. Humana, based in Louisville, Ky., will offer plans in 40 counties. The two companies overlap in five counties — Hinds, Madison and Rankin in the metro Jackson area; nearby Scott County; and DeSoto just south of Memphis, Tenn.

Magnolia Health Plan originally said it would offer coverage in 46 counties. Chaney said Tuesday that the number had increased to 47 sometime in the past several weeks.

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