BILL MINOR: Chaney, unfairly criticized, works for consumers

Mike Chaney, the Vietnam War veteran and for 15 years a state legislator, who is now the state’s elected insurance commissioner, is a rare Republican. He’s an unabashed moderate.

Because he has shown compassion for Mississippians to buy medical insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, (otherwise called Obamacare) he is being targeted by the crazies in his party as consorting with the “enemy.”

Reminds an old-timer like me how the old Citizens Council use to brand as traitors any public figure who did not slavishly toe the Councils’ segregation line.

Tea-Partiers and a handful of right-wingers in Congress shut down the federal government for three weeks in a mindless attempt to eviscerate Obamacare, a shutdown that brought pain to thousands of disadvantaged Americans. Seeing that was going nowhere, they threatened to use the nuclear bomb – default on paying the national debt.

Down here, extremists seemed behind the curve of their fellow crazies in Congress – they were still trying to deliver the corpse of Obamacare. Last week in an op-ed piece, a guy named Jameson Taylor who otherwise is a lapdog for lobbyist Forest Thigpen, the self-appointed “brain” of Gov. Phil Bryant on such top-drawer national issues as Obamacare, sought to pillory Mike Chaney for his courageous attempt to get federal recognition of a state-run medical insurance exchange.

Jameson wrongly made it appear Department of Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius out-of-hand last November rejected the state-run medical insurance exchange plan Chaney had crafted. Actually, Sebelius was on the verge of approving Chaney’s plan when Bryant at the last minute fired a letter to her strongly opposing it. Seeing that the insurance commissioner and the governor of Mississippi were split on the issue, Sebelius had no alternative than to install a federally-run exchange.

Since then, despite Bryant’s rancor predicting the new Health reform act “is going to be a disaster,” he has signed off on accepting $1 million in federal funds to operate an exchange call center at Hattiesburg. And, contrary to what Taylor wrote in his op-ed, Chaney evidently still has amicable relations with Secretary Sebelius: witness the fact that she has approved his request to develop an online insurance marketplace for small businesses.

Chaney, who told me he expected to expand to 100 the number of employees per business who could be covered, said the new insurance exchange, called SHOP (Small Business Health Options) “will be vital to Mississippi because we have such a substantial number of small businesses.”

In my research for this column, I learned from an old newspaper colleague who is now retired, that hosts for a statewide talk radio network not only have been taking vicious rightwing jabs at Chaney but spouting “advice” to listeners that is dangerous to their health. My newspaper friend said he heard two radio jocks tell an uninsured low-paid working man in his 40s with three children and a wife with a life-threatening illness not to buy a health care insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange rolled out on Oct. 1. The working man said he had no insurance through his job and could not buy insurance for his family because of his wife’s pre-existing illness. Obamacare forbids insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing illness.

Makes you wonder if the working guy listens to those radio dingbats how his little family will make out if the wife is hospitalized or the kids got sick.

Syndicated columnist Bill Minor has covered Mississippi politics since 1947. Contact him through Ed Inman at

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  • My, My. It seems like Texas isn’t the only state where the fight against Obamacare has left the realm of rational thought and has become some kind of purity test, where even so much as one drop of tainted blood…