By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney on Friday disputed media reports that said he had changed his position on creating an insurance exchange where people can shop for health care coverage.
“I want to make it clear that my position regarding the health insurance exchange has not changed,” said the Republican insurance commissioner who has been working with an advisory board to develop the exchange as part of the federal health care act.
The federal law gives states the option to develop exchanges by 2014 where people can shop for the best insurance option for them. Under the law, the federal government will enact exchanges in states that do not develop their own.
Opponents of the controversial law are hopeful it will be repealed if Republicans win the presidency and majorities in the U.S. House and Senate in November. In recent days, at two separate meetings, Tea Party members have exerted pressure on Chaney to drop plans to enact a Mississippi exchange.
In a statement released Friday, Chaney said, “We are not going to make any final decisions regarding the exchange until after the presidential and congressional elections on Nov. 6. We will, however, continue to do those things toward the establishment of an exchange that we must do to keep us in a position to make the best decision in November for all Mississippians. That is the only way to keep all of our available options open.”
Chaney said he would prefer state officials to enact the exchange instead of the federal government.
Even before the federal health care law was passed, former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour expressed support for the concept. Chaney also has voiced support for it regardless of what happens to the overall federal health care law.
Chaney’s office said Friday he still supports the concept which he has described as “a free market” approach to dealing with the issue of providing health care to the uninsured. Presumably, insurance rates would be cheaper on the exchange because of the competition and because a shopper would get the benefit of a group rate.
On Thursday, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Phil Bryant praised Chaney when the perception was that he had tabled the exchange effort.
As lieutenant governor though, Bryant did not express opposition when the Senate where he presided passed legislation to create the exchange.