By JACK WEATHERLY
Many Mississippians will be paying less for their health insurance obtained through the state’s exchange mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
Two of the three insurers in Mississippi offering coverage through the federal health insurance exchange mandated by the Affordable Care Act have lowered their average premium.
The enrollment period began Nov. 1 across the nation.
United HealthCare will expand its coverage statewide starting Jan. 1, giving residents of all 82 counties at least two choices of insurers.
Thirty-two will have all three insurers to choose from.
Magnolia Health’s premiums will decrease 2.9 percent on average. Humana’s average rate will decrease 0.2 percent. United HealthCare raised its premiums on average 6.6 percent, according to the Mississippi Insurance Department.
Amounts for the average premium were not available, the department said.
United HealthCare had 26,000 enrollees as of Nov. 1, following by Magnolia Health with 18,000 and Humana with 16,915, the department said.
But having more insurance companies does not mean that everyone will have coverage.
Mississippi and 18 other states have not expanded their Medicaid coverage.
The Magnolia State has about 139,000 residents without Medicaid because Gov. Phil Bryant blocked the expansion of the government insurance.
The federal government would pay for 100 percent of the expanded Medicaid through calendar year 2016, 95 percent in calendar year 2017, 94 percent in 2018, 93 percent in 2019 and 90 percent 2020 and beyond.
The number of uninsured nonelderly Americans in 2014 was 32 million, a decrease of nearly 9 million since 2013, to the Kaiser Family Foundation said in October.
Bryant said in a prepared statement earlier this year: “Mississippi is one of many, many states that have chosen not to saddle taxpayers with the crushing burden of additional Medicaid costs by expanding President Obama’s unraveling health care takeover.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the expansion is optional.
Thirty-one states have expanded coverage as of Nov. 1 under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, according to the Kaiser foundation.
In Mississippi, 108,000 people fall into what is called the “coverage gap.”
They are at risk because the state did not expand Medicaid for those whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to qualify for tax credits to reduce premiums, Kaiser said.
Across the nation, 3.1 million Americans that fall into the gap, the foundation says.
Mississippi, perennially one of the poorest states, has the highest ratio of participation in subsidized premiums – 95.4 percent, according to CMS.
The average monthly tax credit subsidy for a Mississippian was $350, compared with the national average of $270.
Still, many of those who qualified to get federal subsidies to help with their premiums have dropped coverage.
The attrition rate in Mississippi is 8 percent, The New York Times reported, though Bob Williams, director of the Life and Health Actuarial Division of the Mississippi Health Department, said he could not confirm that figure.
“I’m not sure where that figure came from,” Williams said.
About 15 percent of those in the nation who bought subsidized insurance through the exchanges have dropped out. for one or more of several reasons – loss, or gain, of income, or deciding the insurance was just not affordable, The Times reported.
For those who do not sign up in 2016, the penalty, under ACA, will rise to 2.5 percent of income or $695 per adult and $345.50 per child, whichever is more.
Otherwise, the only alternative are federally funded health clinics around the state, Williams said. There are 21, including the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center, for example.
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