Governor says health care reform is hurting state’s economy

JACKSON — Gov. Phil Bryant says the 2010 federal health care overhaul is slowing Mississippi’s economy because business owners are confused about how much it will cost them to meet demands of the law.

“The Obama administration has not done a very good job of giving companies some encouragement of investing in their corporations, expanding them to try to move forward,” Bryant told reporters. “They still don’t know what impact Obamacare will have upon their industry. And they’re very nervous out there. They’re not going to grow until they know something.”

Bryant’s comments came after he spoke to more than 200 business people who were at Mississippi College for a conference about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Bryant repeated his opposition to expanding Medicaid to people at 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which the U.S. Supreme Court said is optional under the law.

Mississippi had 640,427 people on Medicaid in August, or about 1 in 5 residents.

Milliman Inc., a consulting firm hired by the state, estimated the federal health law could add as many as 400,000 people to Medicaid by 2020, increasing enrollment to about 1 in 3 residents. The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation gave a more modest number, saying 320,748 could be added in Mississippi by 2019.

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney is moving forward with one part of complying with the 2010 law. He’s working to create a health care exchange where uninsured people can shop online for coverage.

Last week, Chaney met one deadline by submitting documents to the federal government, showing minimum levels of coverage that would be available under the proposed Mississippi exchange.

The federal law tells states to establish health exchanges by January 2014. But the Kaiser Family Foundation says eight states have decided not to create an exchange and another eight have shown “no significant activity” in working on one. Most of those states have Republican governors.

Bryant has said he wants Chaney to stop working on the health exchange, but Chaney said he doesn’t need the governor’s permission to do the work. Tea party members also have criticized Chaney for continuing.

“It’s the law. And you’ve got to obey the law. I take an oath to uphold the constitution of the state of Mississippi and the Constitution of the United States of America and all laws that are applicable,” Chaney told The Associated Press. “You can’t thumb your nose at the federal government. You just can’t do that. We did that for years on civil rights issues and it cost us dearly. You just don’t need to do that.”

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