Mississippi ready to operate small business exchange

Mississippi wants to become the second state in the country to offer a dual-model health insurance exchange, providing a federally-run marketplace for individuals while operating its own small business exchange.

Mike Chaney, the state's insurance commissioner, made the announcement Friday a week after the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services adopted a rule that lets Mississippi set up its own small business health options exchange.

"The state has had a developed plan ready since early 2013 and has been waiting for Federal approval of our request to operate the free market approach of SHOP exchanges," Chaney said in a statement.

Chaney will meet with federal officials Sept. 18, when he expects to receive formal approval on the small business exchange. He plans to open the marketplace in first quarter of 2014, reported the Associated Press.

"My goal is to foster competition, to lower prices for the consumer and offer them some choice," Chaney told the AP. He added that although he believes hundreds of thousands of Mississippi employees could benefit from the small business exchange, he isn't sure how many businesses will actually participate.

Utah is the only other state operating a dual-model exchange that is split into two parts run separately by Utah and federal officials.

To learn more:
- here's the Mississippi statement (.pdf)
- read the Associated Press article