By JACK WEATHERLY
A record number of Mississippians have signed up for health insurance through the federal exchange, deadline for which is Thursday for those who want coverage starting Jan. 1.
Those who sign up or make changes during open enrollment after Dec. 15 but by Jan. 31 will get that coverage starting March 1.
Meantime, the Trump administration vows to make short work of dismantling Obamacare.
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says the Trump plan will not happen so fast and that folks can count on coverage through 2017.
“I don’t expect a wholesale repeal of it overnight,” Chaney said in an interview. “I have encouraged people to go ahead and sign up” under the Affordable Care Act.
Chaney cautioned that will be fewer special signup periods.
Roy Mitchell, executive director of the private Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, said, “It’s going to be around. Take advantage of it.”
Mitchell said 22,000 Mississippians who are eligible for a federal tax credit through the exchange are paying full price for their health insurance.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a Nov. 30 release that “with plans available for less than $75 per month in premiums, 2.1 million Americans, including 18,493 in Mississippi, have already selected coverage through HealthCare.gov, more than had signed up at this time last year.”
The department said in another release that most of those who qualify for a credit can expect to pay up to $100 per month.
Obamacare took a major hit on Oct. 24, when the federal Department of Health and Human Services announced that the benchmark Silver plan premiums were going up by an average of 25 percent in the 38 states with exchanges.
Those who want to sign up for coverage can go to HealthCare.gov for options.
About 100,000 Mississippians get insurance through the exchange.
The program uses the carrot or stick approach.
Of the former, a major provision of the ACA is that a pre-existing medical condition is covered.
On the other hand, it calls for a fine for those who don’t have coverage.
Firms with more than 50 employees are required to provide health coverage or face a tax penalty. Likewise, individuals who do not have policies this year will be fined 2.5 percent of their income, or $695, whichever is greater.
Mississippi has two insurers in its exchange. Ambetter of Magnolia is in all 82 counties. Humana is in 32 counties. An earlier version of this article had those numbers reversed.
UnitedHealthcare will pull out of all counties at the end of December.
It said in April that it suffered losses through the exchanges totaling $475 million last year and anticipates losing $650 million this year.