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With health exchange in limbo, Mississippi will lose another insurer

By JACK WEATHERLY

Who knows what will happen with the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, but Mississippi will be down to one insurer in its exchange as Humana will be gone at the end of the year, leaving only Ambetter of Magnolia to cover the state.

Ambetter premiums on the benchmark “silver plan” have increased 25 percent on average this year, while Humana’s have risen 28 percent, according to Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney

They reflect the projected 25 percent increase for all 38 health insurance exchanges, which offer subsidies to reduce the cost of coverage.

While on the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump vowed repeatedly that the first thing he would do on taking office on January 20 as president would be to repeal and replace Obamacare.

But on March 24, the Republican-controlled House leadership pulled the proposed replacement bill, the American Health Care Act, when it became evident that there was not enough support to carry the day.

Ten days earlier, the Congressional Budget Office had released an analysis that stated that 24 million Americans would not have coverage over a 10-year period – including 14 million in 2018.  The CBO is an independent, nonpartisan office that analyzes the budgetary impact of proposed legislation.

Nearly half of the 14 million dropping coverage would happen in the first year because of the repeal of the mandate that all citizens have it, at the penalty for individuals and fines to employers.

Yet the office said that the federal budget deficit would be decreased by $337 billion over 10 years and while premiums would increase in 2018 and 2019 , they would be lower by 10 percent on average by 2026 than projected under the ACA.

Congress is in recess till April 25, so nothing will change in the meantime.

The Republican majority has vowed to revisit the issue.

Chaney said in an interview on Friday that the number of Mississippians buying their insurance through the exchange has dropped to 60,000 to 65,000 this year. There were about 100,000 getting it last year.

Chaney said he expects health plans to be good through the end of the year.

The good news for Mississippians is that the federal Health and Human Services Department under the Trump administration has extended till Dec. 31 “transitional policy relief” for 200,000 who bought their insurance before 2014 and would have otherwise been unable to afford coverage, Chaney said.

Chaney said he asked the HHS to make the relief indefinite, but it refused, and so starting in January, Mississippi policyholders would see average rate increases of more than 65 percent for individual policy holders and 16 percent for small groups.

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