The 2015 open enrollment period on HealthCare.gov continues until Feb. 15, but enrollment expectations for Mississippi are low. Political opposition to the Affordable Care Act is very strong, many residents are distrustful of government assistance, and outreach efforts are limited. In a state with a 22 percent poverty rate, many people find premiums too expensive — even with subsidies factored in.
As of Jan. 9, 76,005 Mississippi residents had selected health plans through HealthCare.gov. While that figure exceeds total signups during 2014 open enrollment, it is still just 26 percent of those eligible to enroll according to Kaiser Family Foundation estimates.
Need help enrolling?
Two organizations can connect you with someone to help you apply for health insurance:
University of Mississippi Medical Center: Call 601-815-4900 or toll-free 1-866-545-6842 for help over the phone or to make an appointment to meet with someone in person.
2015 participating insurers
UnitedHealthcare joined the Mississippi marketplace for 2015, bringing the total number of insurers on the individual exchange to three in the state. Humana and Magnolia Health Plan were part of the marketplace in 2014 and are returning for 2015.
United’s entry brings welcome competition to Mississippi. For 2014, residents of some counties had access to just a single insurer’s plans through the exchange. Humana originally intended to participate in just a few counties in 2014, but greatly expanded its offering to provide consumers a second option in 36 additional counties.
Average premiums drop sharply for 2015
According to an analysis by The Commonwealth Fund, average premiums in Mississippi are 19 percent lower in 2015 than in 2014. The weighted analysis looks at premium amounts, differences in premiums between urban/suburban/rural areas within states, and insurer participation.
Small business marketplace
Mississippi began operating its own Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchange — which is called One, Mississippi — in May 2014. One, Mississippi is open to employers with 50 or fewer full-time employees.
How many Mississippians enrolled in 2014?
Mississippi was 33rd in terms of the percentage of eligible individuals who enrolled in a qualified health plan (QHP) through the marketplace in 2014. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 61,494 people signed up for health plans, and another 13,779 people qualified for either Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) under existing eligibility criteria.
Among Mississippi residents enrolling in QHPs, 94 percent qualified for financial assistance, compared to 85 percent nationally. A report released in June by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed the average monthly premium, after tax credits, for Mississippi consumers was just $23. That’s the lowest average in the nation.
Eight percent of Mississippi residents selected a bronze plan (20 percent nationally), 79 percent selected a silver plan (65 percent nationally), 5 percent selected a gold plan (9 percent nationally), 7 percent selected a platinum plan (5 percent nationally) and 1 percent selected a catastrophic plan (2 percent nationally). Thirty-one percent of Mississippi enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34.
How the marketplace evolved in Mississippi
State Commissioner of Insurance Mike Chaney clashed with two governors as to what form a health insurance exchange should take in Mississippi. Chaney, current Gov. Phil Bryant, and former Gov. Haley Barbour are all Republicans and on record as opposing the Affordable Care Act. However, Chaney consistently maintained that the state would be better off running its own exchange.
Chaney pushed hard for a state-run exchange. In 2011, he announced that the Mississippi Comprehensive Health Insurance Risk Pool Association would operate an exchange. The Risk Pool Association developed a plan in which the exchange would be developed in four phases, with work outsourced.
Early exchange planning was carried out by the board of directors of the Risk Pool Association and an advisory board appointed by Chaney. The Risk Pool Association, the advisory board, and the insurance department continued working throughout 2012, and in November, Chaney notified the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that Mississippi intended to implement a state-run exchange. However, Bryant told HHS in December 2012 that Chaney had overstepped his authority. In February 2013, HHS rejected Mississippi’s exchange blueprint.
The federal government runs the individual exchange in Mississippi, while the state operates the small-business exchange.
Mississippi health insurance exchange links
State Exchange Profile: Mississippi
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Mississippi’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.
Health Help Mississippi
Assists people insured by private health plans, Medicaid, or other plans in resolving problems pertaining to their health coverage; assists uninsured residents with access to care.
(877) 314-3843 / firstname.lastname@example.org