By Wally Northway
Two prominent conservative Mississippi Republicans who are outspoken enemies of recent healthcare reform actually are supportive of at least one of the legislation’s components and want it to remain the law. In fact, if the federal healthcare law were repealed, they would push to have it made state law.
Who are these leaders? None other than Gov. Haley Barbour and Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. And they are not alone. Most Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, are right there with them.
Confused? Astounded? Terrified? Angry? Don’t be.
The healthcare reform law carries a provision for healthcare exchanges. Basically a healthcare exchange allows consumers to compare health insurance plans — their costs and their benefits — online. It turns heretofore passive consumers into active healthcare insurance shoppers.
In a statement, Chaney, who refers to the healthcare reform legislation as “Obamacare” with its derisive connotation, said, “A healthcare exchange is not a partisan political issue. Across this nation, Republicans and Democrats alike have embraced the concept of health exchanges as a way to help individuals and small businesses more easily obtain health insurance. In fact, our own Gov. Haley Barbour has for three years introduced legislation in the Mississippi Legislature designed to set up an independent exchange in our state.
“He did not succeed, but with the passage of PPACA (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), health(care) exchanges became part of the law.”
While the debate continues as to the root cause of the spiraling healthcare costs that has cut too many Americans out of the ranks of the insured and led to the reform legislation, many are convinced that the problem lies with American consumers.
Joe Jones, publisher emeritus of the Mississippi Business Journal, was telling anyone who would listen as far back as the 1990s that healthcare costs were rising due to a severe lack of consumerism.
“Hospitals don’t care (about costs) because insurance will cover it,” Jones said. “Insurance firms don’t care because employers will cover it. And employers don’t care because they just write it off as a cost of doing business.”
The only time consumers balk now is when their cost rises, he said, and many still don’t see the bigger picture.
“You’ll have people yelling like a mashed cat if their co-pay goes from, say, $2 to $5 for a $77 drug,” Jones said. “They don’t care that the drug costs $77; they just don’t want to pay the extra $3.”
Though backing the healthcare exchange component, Chaney is still concerned.
“The PPACA specifies that in states that do not set up a health(care) exchange, the federal government will come in and run an exchange in those states. I simply do not believe that the federal government can run something in Mississippi to benefit Mississippians better than we can ourselves.”
When informed of the provision that if the state doesn’t set up a healthcare exchange one would be provided by the federal government, Jones said sarcastically, “This from the same people who brought you the post office and Amtrak.”
Sounds like its time for Mississippians to get proactive in health insurance — and quick.