By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Now is the time for Mississippians to give input on insurance exchanges, a key portion of President Barack Obama’s health care reform legislation.
Meetings are slated for Tuesday in Tupelo and Oxford and for Monday in Starkville. The Mississippi Department of Insurance will conduct 13 hearings across the state.
Health insurance exchanges will be established in each state as part of the controversial federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that was passed in 2010.
According to a news release from the office of state Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, “a health insurance exchange is a marketplace where individuals and businesses can compare and shop for health insurance.”
In theory, the large number of people purchasing insurance through the exchange is supposed to drive down the costs.
The federal government will operate the exchange for states that do not have them in place by 2014.
The Mississippi Legislature was unable to agree on how the exchange would be set up during the 2011 session. But after the session, Chaney announced that existing state law gave him the authority to set up an exchange through the Comprehensive Health Insurance Risk Pool Association, which was established by the state to help Mississippians who have costly health conditions obtain insurance.
Chaney and other Republicans, such as Gov. Haley Barbour, who is suing to overturn a portion of the health care law, have voiced support for a health insurance exchange in the state. Barbour has been trying at least since 2008 to pass one through the Legislature.
The Department of Insurance has said an exchange could help in Mississippi where 18 percent of the population has no health care coverage.
– Monday: 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. – Mississippi State University Henry Center, Starkville
– Tuesday: 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. – BancorpSouth Conference Center, Tupelo
– Tuesday: 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. – University of Mississippi Triplett Alumni Center, Butler Auditorium, Oxford.