Mississippi has become the first state to get blocked from running its own health insurance exchange after infighting between the governor and insurance commissioner led the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to reject the state's proposal.
HHS said it denied the state's request to run its own marketplace primarily because Gov. Phil Bryant opposed it, according to a letter to Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. "With a lack of support from your Governor and no formal commitment to coordinate with other State agencies, we do not see a feasible pathway to conditionally approving a State-based Exchange in Mississippi for 2014," wrote Gary Cohen, Director of the HHS Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.
Bryant refused to work with Chaney or HHS to develop a state-based exchange. "I have said repeatedly that the health insurance exchanges mandated by ObamaCare are not free-market exchanges. Instead, they are a portal to a massive and unaffordable new federal entitlement program," Bryant said, according to LifeHealthPro.
So HHS urged Mississippi to apply for a partnership exchange that's run jointly by state and federal governments, reported the Associated Press. But Chaney rebuffed the joint partnership idea, saying Mississippi would end up responsible for fulfilling federal mandates without influencing how the exchange is run. "The feds call the shots and we do all the work," Chaney told the AP. "I'm not going to do that."
Chaney noted during a press conference that the HHS rejection would be "draconian in nature" for Mississippi, causing health insurance rates to double or even triple, the Jackson Free Press reported.