By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO – Like it or not, individuals and business need to get up to speed on the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s important that you understand what changes are coming,” said Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who was among several speakers at the annual HealthLink Managed Care Conference in Tupelo Tuesday.
Nearly 200 people – human resource managers, medical providers, insurance agents and others – gathered to dig into the details.
“We have been anticipating market change, but now the market has changed,” said Wally Davis, North Mississippi Health Services vice president for managed care.
All Mississippians will have an option for health insurance on the federal exchange, when it goes live later this fall, and the state insurance department wants to make sure small businesses have a state marketplace, too.
Humana has joined Magnolia Health Plan as the two insurers offering plans on the federal health exchange, which is where Mississippians who need to purchase health insurance will be able to put Affordable Care Act tax credits into play.
Until Humana signed on in July, 36 Mississippi counties had no option on the exchange. Four counties – DeSoto, Hinds, Rankin and Madison – will have access to both plans.
Chaney is no fan of the Affordable Care Act, but says having good access to health care and health insurance is an economic development issue.
“My job is to make sure everyone in the state has access to reasonably priced insurance of all types,” Chaney said.
Exchange for business
Currently, Chaney and his staff have an ongoing dialogue with federal officials to get permission to operate a state health care exchange for small businesses.
Modeled on Utah’s successful small business exchange, the Mississippi exchange would be a free market and allow small businesses many of the advantages larger companies have, such as the ability to offer multiple kinds of plans. Initially the exchange would be open to those with fewer than 50 employees and then expand to those with up to 100.
Three companies have expressed strong interest in offering through the small employer exchange – often called a SHOP.
“We can have it in place by January 2014, if we get approval by mid-September,” Chaney said, because most of the work is already done. The state insurance department has $11 million in remaining grant money to finish the work.