Health exchange premiums will drop

lifestyle_healthnewsBy Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Many Northeast Mississippians shopping for insurance on healthcare.gov will see lower premiums for 2015.

Premiums for Magnolia Health, which offers the only plans available for Northeast Mississippi counties except for Alcorn and Tishomingo, are expected to go down by about 25 percent, according to a report in the Mississippi Business Journal.

Magnolia Health’s president and chief executive officer Dr. Jason Dees, who spoke at Health Link Managed Care Conference in Tupelo on Tuesday, confirmed the anticipated drop, attributing it to the requirement that the health insurer has to spend at least 80 percent of its premiums on health care.

“We’ve had a year to see how it works,” Dees said, noting the insurer met the percentages required by federal law. “Our rates are coming down a little bit.”

At the conference, Dees painted a picture of Magnolia Health’s enrollees as people who are working low-wage jobs in grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and lawn services. The majority are nonsmokers. Many were uninsured prior to enrolling.

The bulk of the Magnolia enrollees in 2014 picked silver plans, which are designed to cover 70 percent of health care costs, Dees said. Silver-level plans also offer additional cost-sharing assistance for families between 100 and 250 percent of the federal poverty line. A large percentage were uninsured.

The biggest expenses for the health insurance plan were medications for treating diabetes and hypertension, followed by antiviral medications to treat HIV and Hepatitis C.

Magnolia Health, which also administers a 77,000-person Mississippi Medicaid network, enrolled about 20,000 through the health insurance exchange, according to the Mississippi Business Journal. Humana had about 42,000. Humana, which offers plans in Alcorn and Tishomingo counties, will see its rates go up an estimated 6 to 8 percent on the exchange, but its rates were lower in 2014 than Magnolia Health’s.

In 2015, only five Mississippi counties will have competition between the two insurance companies participating in the Mississippi exchange. Open enrollment will begin in November.

Magnolia Health will focus on reaching out to those eligible for the exchange – those without access to employer-sponsored health insurance, Dees said.

michaela.morris@journalinc.com