BILL MINOR: Chaney supports retaining health insurance exchange

By Bill Minor

JACKSON – Haley Barbour wants to wipe it off the books entirely. Phil Bryant says he’s on board with his predecessor. Meantime, one of their fellow Republicans in state office wants to save it, at least a particular part.
Of course, what we’re talking about is the Affordable Care Act, pejoratively known on the GOP presidential hustings as Obamacare, the landmark health care reform legislation pushed by President Barack Obama.
As every American knows, if one has paid attention at all, the act – whose main provisions don’t kick-in until 2014 – has been a three-day centerpiece of debate this week before the U.S. Supreme Court, its constitutionality at issue.
Barbour joined 25 other Republican governors in a lawsuit seeking to strike down the health care reform act as unconstitutional.
Mississippi’s Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who was elected in 2007 after serving for 15 years in the Legislature, has broken ranks with other Red State officials in the South who blanketly oppose ACA. “There are portions in that act that are good parts and (one) happens to be the exchange,” Chaney has said.
The exchange he’s talking about is a health insurance exchange, a menu of insurance plans posted online from which the buyer can choose one that best fits his need, price naturally being one consideration. The core reason for mandating everyone is simply to prevent future medical expenses incurred by uninsured persons from being shifted to others.
Chaney, long a believer in high-risk insurance pools, got out front on the health insurance exchange idea in 2009 by shepherding into state law discretionary power for him to create one.
An exchange “is not a Republican idea. It is not a Democratic idea. It is a universal idea and has been around for a long time,” the Mississippi official has said. His theory in putting Mississippi up front with one piece of compliance of the new federal law, is that it is preferable to have a plan designed by Mississippians.
In a recent report, the Center for Mississippi Health Policy highlighted several major advantages to citizens that would accrue from having a health insurance exchange. The report showed the exchange could lower the cost of insurance some 13 percent and would make coverage available to some 275,000 Mississippians now without it.
Some loud-mouthed critics of the health care reform act seem to think the whole idea began with Obama, totally ignoring the fact that presidents back to Franklin D. Roosevelt have tried unsuccessfully to establish universal health care. Obama backers today would be quite happy with Richard Nixon’s proposed program, which was shot down by his fellow Republicans.
The Tea Party crowd and their ilk who want ACA struck down contend the law’s intrusiveness alone justifies voiding its mandate. Not what Appeals Court Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote in upholding the act, that “not every intrusive law is an unconstitutionally intrusive law.”
Columnist Bill Minor has covered Mississippi politics since 1947. Contact him through Ed Inman at edinman@earthlink.net.