Miss. health insurance exchange proposal in limbo

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 3, 2013 at 6:21 pm •  Published: January 3, 2013

Chaney said, however, that the Legislature passed a bill in 2009 — when Bryant was lieutenant governor — that allows creation of a health exchange. Chaney said the 2011 bill would have simply clarified the existing law, but the failure of the bill did not take away the Insurance Department's authority to start an exchange.

"He can rewrite all the history he wants to," Chaney said of Bryant.

Bryant wrote in his Dec. 28 letter that the Mississippi Constitution specifies the chief executive power in the state belongs to the governor, and that the constitution does not mention the Insurance Department. The department was created by a law rather than by the constitution.

"I have concluded that MID lacks authority under Mississippi's Constitution and laws to create an exchange under ACA," Bryant wrote. "Therefore, HHS should not certify an exchange based on MID's application."

Chaney said Thursday that he does not expect to ask a court to settle the dispute between him and Bryant. He said Bryant's objection means the state exchange won't get federal approval because HHS officials told him they want clear proof that the governor will work with the Insurance Department to help implement the plan.

"When the governor pulls the plug on the state-based health exchange, there's not anything I can do to re-establish it," Chaney said.

Chaney has said repeatedly that he doesn't like the federal health law, but he believes Mississippi — not the federal government — should control the state exchange. He said Thursday that Bryant's action will force the federal government to eventually run the exchange in Mississippi.

"The whole goal here is to help the consumer in this state have more information and make an intelligent decision about what they are going to buy," Chaney said Nov. 14, when he said he had completed the exchange proposal and was planning to submit it to Washington.

Under the federal law, Americans who are uninsured can start shopping for coverage through exchanges on Oct. 1 and coverage begins Jan. 1, 2014. About eight in 10 customers in the new marketplaces will be eligible for federal aid to help pay their premiums. Small businesses will have separate access to their own exchanges.


Associated Press Writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report from Washington.