OUR OPINION: Insurance issues gain complexity

By NEMS Daily Journal

Some legislators and others following developments as a July 1 deadline looms for funding and authorizing Mississippi’s Medicaid program believe Gov. Phil Bryant will call a special session early this week to deal with the issue.
Bryant is on a state-paid trip to Paris, and was scheduled to return this weekend.
The Legislature failed in its regular session to agree on funding and program reauthorization when Democrats blocked program renewal because Republican leadership refused to allow floor debate and a vote in the House on Medicaid expansion under terms of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Bryant, House Speaker Philip Gunn, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and the GOP legislative leadership openly oppose Medicaid expansion on grounds of higher costs, affordability and most controversially, politics.
Some Democrats have said some Republicans would vote for expansion were it to come to a legislative vote because it would provide Medicaid health insurance coverage to several hundred thousand additional Mississippians. They also believe expansion would moderate the financial impact on participating hospitals, which otherwise could be hit with large increases in uncompensated care.
The federal government would pay all costs for three years, and then the state would be expected to incrementally pay 10 percent of the increased costs.
Meanwhile, it was reported that a federally run health insurance exchange with private sector policies available for purchase to meet Obamacare requirements would not have an insurer in 36 counties as it now stands. That could change.
The exchange is empowered to start enrolling customers in October, and federal subsides would be available for a wide range of income levels for singles and families. But levels of subsidy would vary.
A 2012 study by the Mississippi Center for Health Policy projected that as many as 275,000 Mississippians could gain insurance through exchanges, with 230,000 of those benefiting from federal tax credits that could total $900 million a year.
It should be noted that the marketplace program is separate from proposals to expand the state-federal Medicaid program to cover people with incomes up to 138 percent of poverty.
Every new statement of developments further complicates the health insurance outlook for Mississippians at most income levels. Traditional market-offered coverage continues to be available for consumers who can afford it.
The focus of legislative concern must remain what to do about the poor, elderly, blind and poor mothers who have always stood on the fringe of health care coverage in our state.
Health care insurance coverage so far expected in Mississippi on the federal exchange:
• Magnolia and Humana: DeSoto, Hinds, Madison, Rankin counties
• Magnolia only: Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Claiborne, Clarke, Clay, Coahoma, Copiah, Forrest, George, Greene, Harrison, Issaquena, Itawamba, Jackson, Jasper, Kemper, Lafayette, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lee, Lowndes, Marshall, Monroe, Neshoba, Newton, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Panola, Perry, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Quitman, Simpson, Stone, Tate, Tippah, Tunica, Union, Warren, Webster, Yazoo counties. (Source: Associated Press)