Gov. Phil Bryant and his merry band of dullards in the Mississippi House really stuck it to the citizens of Mississippi this time. Last week during the Medicaid special session, an issue came to the House floor by way of amendment that was pretty unexpected. The House Democrats, in addition to getting a vote on Medicaid expansion, also got a vote on creating a state-run insurance exchange.
Here's the whole thing in a nutshell: The Affordable Care Act created something called "health care exchanges", which are online marketplaces where people can go to purchase health insurance at reduced rates. A Republican idea, each state was to create and manage its own exchange, subject to initial federal approval. Gov. Haley Barbour (R) was on board, and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney (R) went to work putting the Mississippi exchange together. Then Gov. Bryant came into office, and said Mississippi wouldn't be running its own exchange. That move left the federal government in charge of running the Mississippi exchange.
Well, the federally-run Mississippi exchange only has one insurer participating, and that insurer has decided not to sell its plan in 36 of our 82 counties. That means that, come October 1, some of us will have access to cheaper health insurance, and some of us won't. (Click here to see who gets to pay more.) The way to fix that is to revive Chaney's exchange, which would have provided access to all Mississippians.
Don't believe me? Here's what Kaiser Health News had to say:
Tens of thousands of uninsured residents in the poorest and most rural parts of Mississippi may be unable to get subsidies to buy health coverage when a new online marketplace opens this fall because private insurers are avoiding a wide swath of the state.
No insurer is offering to sell plans through the federal health law’s marketplaces in 36 of the state’s 82 counties, including some of the poorest parts of the Delta region, said Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney.
As a result, 54,000 people who may qualify for subsidized coverage would be unable to get it, estimates the Center for Mississippi Health Policy, a nonpartisan research group.
Many make a living picking soybeans, working on tree farms or in fast food restaurants, earning too little to buy coverage on their own.
Insurers currently sell policies in all 36 counties – and are expected to continue to do so next year – but only outside of the new marketplaces. Subsidies are available only through the marketplaces, so those sold outside of it come with no subsidy, and many residents are unlikely to purchase them without one.(Oh, and before you get all upset, these subsidies that are being referenced are federal subsidies, not state ones. So there's not a dime of state money being discussed here.)
But of course, it simply wouldn't do to let this Barbour-born and Chaney-bred idea go into effect in all Mississippi counties. Oh, no. If you want to see how your representative voted on the issue of leaving Mississippians in 36 counties in the cold, click here.