JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says work has been completed on a plan for an online marketplace for Mississippians to shop for insurance policies and nothing more needs to be done for now.
Chaney spokesman Joseph Ammerman said Friday the next deadline under the federal Affordable Care Act is Nov. 16 — after the presidential and congressional elections — for submission of plans for a state-run health insurance exchange to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act are hoping the November elections will see the defeat of President Obama and a Republican Senate takeover that could lead to repeal of the law.
Chaney has said he believes if Mississippi designs its own insurance exchange it can tailor offerings to the needs of the state.
On Thursday, in a statement Chaney said: "Presently, we are far enough along in creating a free-market exchange, without provisions of the Affordable Care Act, that we do not have to make any final decision until after the November election, at which time we can make an intelligent and informed decision not to implement portions of the act unless required by law."
"Until then, I continue to support a free-market solution to providing health insurance products to individual consumers and business owners in the state of Mississippi," Chaney said.
A state-run exchange would allow Mississippians to shop an online insurance marketplace for comparable rates and provisions. States that do not create a health insurance exchange by 2014 will be forced to adopt a federally run program.
On Wednesday, more than 30 tea party members asked Chaney to halt work on the state-run program. Chaney said he doesn't like the Affordable Care Act, but it was the law whether opponents liked it or not.
Chaney said it's incorrect to think there will be no federal action if the state gives up. He said opting out will mean worse options and less control for Mississippi.
Chaney has said the state's exchange could be ready for federal approval in 60 to 90 days.
Gov. Phil Bryant has expressed opposition to the health care overhaul law. Spokesman Mick Bullock has declined to answer questions from The Associated Press about whether Bryant wants Chaney to stop work on the exchange and whether Bryant has communicated that desire to Chaney.
"Gov. Bryant believes it would be prudent to delay implementing ObamaCare, until after the November elections," Bullock said this week. "Gov. Bryant supports a free-market based method of delivering health insurance products to consumers and would resist any other system that would further implement ObamaCare"
Mississippi received $20 million from the federal government in August 2011 to move forward on starting its health care exchange program.
Twelve other states and Washington, D.C., received grants totaling $165 million at the same time, but Mississippi's was among the highest.
Mississippi health insurance exchange, http://www.onemississippi.com
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com
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