Federal government rejects Mississippi's insurance exchange plan - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Federal government rejects Mississippi's insurance exchange plan

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney didn't mince words when he announced the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services denied Mississippi's health care exchange program proposal.

He blamed H.H.S, politics, and President Barack Obama's administration.

"I fear we've been unable to trust them at this point, and Americans need to be able to trust their government. I feel betrayed," a frustrated Chaney said Thursday afternoon.

Chaney hasn't received an official notice explaining why the state was denied. However, he believes Mississippi's ability to work with Medicaid is one issue. The other is politics at the state capitol.

"They think the political atmosphere in the state is not conducive to a state based exchange being operated. That's not my fault," said Chaney.

He expects a detailed letter from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services Friday.

An exchange is an online marketplace where people can buy health insurance.

Under the federal health law that Obama signed in 2010, every state is required to have an exchange so people can get coverage starting in January 2014, much of it federally subsidized. States that don't create their own will have one run by Washington.

The insurance commissioner hopes the state can still create a small employer state run exchange program for companies that employ less than 50 people. He says it will save jobs.

Chaney explained, "You're going to look at some huge increases in premiums with the federal government operating the exchange. And it begins not January of next year. It begins October 1 of this year."

Chaney says an insurance exchange run by the federal government will have a negative impact Mississippi's rural hospitals.

He believes putting people in a state run exchange could save Mississippi millions.

"With a state based exchange, with the polices instead of Medicaid, it's easier for the hospital to be paid. They have better benefits than what you would have under Medicaid. It was a win, win for everybody," said Chaney.

He also claims a federal health care exchange program would greatly diminish his regulatory authority.

Gov. Phil Bryant objects to the federal healthcare law and sent two letters to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius trying to block Chaney's proposal. Bryant also opposes expanding the Medicaid rolls in the state.

He and Chaney are both Republicans.

Bryant released this statement on his website: "My office has not been officially informed by the Department of Health and Human Services of a decision. However, I have said repeatedly that the health insurance exchanges mandated by ObamaCare are not free-market exchanges. Instead, they are a portal to a massive and unaffordable new federal entitlement program. They trigger new taxes on businesses and will ultimately drive more people onto Medicaid rolls. I firmly maintain my position that Mississippi will not willfully implement a mechanism that will compromise our state's financial stability.

Furthermore, the Department of Health and Human Services' refusal to approve Utah's plan for an exchange proves that the federal government has no intention of allowing states to tailor exchanges to their own unique needs. Make no mistake, the federal government will control all exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act."

Copyright 2013 MSNewsNow. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.

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