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Sole insurer in Mississippi insurance exchange faces tax credit fate

By JACK WEATHERLY

All 82 Mississippi counties will have only one insurer in the federal marketplace in 2018 as things stand now.

Humana will pull out at the end of this year.

The premiums for Ambetter of Magnolia, the sole insurer in the state, have yet to be finalized but they present “no staggering increase,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney.

A key to the rates will be whether the federal tax credit will be around next year, Chaney said.

Congress is wrestling with a replacement of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, a major part of which are tax credits to make insurance through the exchanges affordable.

If that is not in play in 2018, “I think Ambetter will pull out of half the counties they’re in.” Without the credits, Ambetter’s risk “goes up about 100 percent,” Chaney said.

The House version of the American Health Care Act would do away with them, Chaney said.

The Wall Street Journal cited a recent survey of 14 insurers that found that the average premium increase planned for 2018 is about 20 percent. But “nearly all of the responses assumed that the cost-sharing payments continued. If they didn’t, insurers would seek either further increases or withdraw from the market.”

Chaney does not expect Ambetter to pull out. “Their expertise is in handling people from zero percent of poverty to 250 percent.”

Ambetter is part of the Centene Corp., which announced last week that it was planning to enter exchanges in Kansas, Missouri and Nevada in 2018 and will expand its presence in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Texas and Washington state.

St. Louis-based Centene stated in a release that its exchange members grew from 537,200 to 1.2 million members between Dec. 31, 2016 and March 31, 2017.

“Centene recognizes there is uncertainty of new health care legislation, but we are well positioned to continue providing accessible, high quality . . . health care services to our members,” said Michael F. Neidorff, chairman, president and chief executive.

Attempts to contact Ambetter were unsuccessful.

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