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Feds, state still in talks about exchange insurer replacement

Magnolia Humana Map_400px_rgbBy JACK WEATHERLY 

As of Monday, the federal government had not certified another health insurer for the Mississippi insurance exchange, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said.

The months-long effort to gain certification of the insurer is facing increasing pressure as UnitedHealthcare will pull its coverage from the exchange at the end of the year.

Chaney said in an interview that he cannot disclose who the insurer is, or whether the U.S. government will approve the candidate.

“I’m dealing with the federal government. It’s just hard for me to say. What they consider network adequacy is totally different from what I might consider. We have a statutory law on what network adequacy means.”

Hospitals are clamoring to know who will “replace” UnitedHealthcare, he said. Still, all 82 counties will have at least one insurer, according to the department. More than 100,000 Mississippians get their coverage through the exchange.

Chaney last week granted Humana an average premium increase of 43 percent for next year for its 13,000 policyholders and an average of 7 percent for Magnolia.

UnitedHealthcare announced in April its pullout out of all exchanges in virtually all states. UnitedHealthcare said it sustained losses of $475 million in losses in 2015 and projected a $650 million loss for 2016. It had made a bold rollout of its coverage in 2016 – for all 82 Mississippi counties.

Chaney said at the time that “there will be less competition that may result in increased rates.”

Yet he said in an Aug. 4 release that “the majority of Mississippians will receive federal government subsidies to offset the cost of premiums . . . [and] should see some rate relief in their premiums despite the overall rate increases.”

Bob Williams, director of the Life and Health Actuarial Division of the Mississippi Insurance Department, said in June that about 97 percent of Mississippians in the exchange qualified for a subsidy.


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