Humana fills empty exchange spots in Mississippi

The federally-run health insurance exchange in Mississippi will now have health plan options available for the entire state, thanks to Humana's decision to sell policies in 36 Mississippi counties.

Humana had initially only planned to sell plans in four of Mississippi's 82 counties. And since the state's two largest insurers, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi and UnitedHealth, opted not to participate in the exchange, consumers in almost half of the counties wouldn't have had any coverage options, the Clarion Ledger reported.

"As many people know, we have had real concerns about being able to have full coverage for the entire state," Commissioner Mike Chaney said in a statement. "Humana's decision to extend their coverage in Mississippi demonstrates their good corporate citizenship."

Humana added in its own statement that extending coverage throughout Mississippi and working with local providers will help the company "enhance quality of care and improve health outcomes in the state," according to the Associated Press.

But while state officials welcomed the decision, it's unclear whether it will actually benefit Humana, given Mississippi's challenging health market.

"I think the biggest issue is that it will be hard to build a tight network in those rural counties," Caroline Pearson, vice president of Avalere Health, told Politico. "Humana may have a difficult time building competitive networks in [Mississippi], so we could see higher than average premiums in this region. However, for the majority of the market that gets premium subsidies, having a plan to enroll in is paramount."

To learn more:
- here's the Mississippi statement (.pdf)
- read the Clarion Ledger article
- see the Politico article
- check out the Associated Press article

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