Mississippi takes first steps to take part in Affordable Care Act — Move comes as Gov. Bryant continues to resist state’s full participation in health care reform

The very thing Gov. Phil Bryant had hoped not to see occurred last week: Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney submitted the state’s plan for a health insurance exchange to the federal government, moving the state closer to participation in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Chaney calls his submittal a blueprint for a free market exchange designed to link health insurance policy sellers with buyers, many of whom will be buying policies subsidized by the federal government starting in the year 2014.

Chaney spokesman Joseph Ammerman says Chaney sent the plan last Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Chaney has steadily worked toward the creation of the online marketplace for people to buy insurance despite pressure from Gov. Bryant and others to abandon the plan.

The governor’s office created the impression weeks back that Chaney had stopped work on the exchange and would await the outcome of the election before deciding whether to resume work. The insurance department was working on the exchange all along, Ammerman says. “We were plugging away.”

States faced a last Friday deadline to send a letter of intent to the federal government. The White House, however, extended the deadline for actually committing to participation to Dec. 14.

The federal government will create an exchange in any state that is unable or unwilling to do so.

Chaney insists he’s no fan of the new federal health care law, but says Mississippi would be better off controlling its own exchange. Opponents say the state won’t have enough freedom and Mississippi should have no association with a law they find odious.

Next up: A decision by Bryant and state legislators on whether Mississippi should accept a federal offer of billions of dollars to be used for adding more than 300,000 Mississippians without healthcare to the Medicaid rolls.

Bryant insists he won’t go along and has joined other Republican governors, mostly from the South, who vow to refuse participation in the federal plan, even though their states will lose federal money that now goes to compensate hospitals for treating the uninsured working poor. Mississippi stands to lose around $152 million a year. Bryant has not said where he will find money to fill that hole after he rejects the federal Medicaid expansion.

Some of the reluctant GOP governors are reportedly reconsidering their boycott of the Medicaid expansion after leaders in their respective legislatures began raising fears about the consequences of not taking part.

Bryant has given no indication he is softening his position against expanding Medicaid and continues to raise the prospect that the state would be unable to pay the hundreds of millions of dollars it would have to contribute to the expansion.

 

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