mississippi guide to health insurance

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Mississippi health insurance

Magnolia State at ranked at bottom; still no interest in ACA

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This summary provides a snapshot of health indicators from several sources and briefly examines Mississippi’s decisions on key provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Mississippi health ratings

Again in 2014, Mississippi is ranked 51st among the states and the District of Columbia in overall health. The ranking comes from this year’s Scorecard on State Health System Performance, which is published by The Commonwealth Fund. Review Mississippi’s individual Scorecard for a list of all measures evaluated.

Mississippi is also ranked at the bottom of the states in America’s Health Rankings in the 2013 evaluation, the most recent available, by the United Health Foundation. Mississippi’s 50th ranking is based on high rates of physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes; low immunization rates among adolescents; a high infant mortality rate; and a high prevalence of low birthweights. Mississippi does have some public health positives, including a low prevalence of binge drinking, high immunization rates for children, and little disparity in health status by level of education completed.

See Key Health Data About Mississippi from the 2014 edition of Trust for America’s Health for more health rankings.

If you’re more interested in comparing counties within Mississippi, use theses health rankings from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Population Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin.

Mississippi and the Affordable Care Act

At the federal level, both Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker voted against the ACA in 2010. Cochran and Wicker are both Republicans and remain in office. Cochran is running for re-election in November, facing former Rep. Travis Childers.

Breaking with a strong majority of their party, two Democratic Representatives from Mississippi voted against the ACA in 2010, as did Rep. Gene Taylor. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, was the sole Mississippi vote for the ACA. Republicans now hold three of Mississippi’s four seats in the U.S. House.

At the state level, State Commissioner of Insurance Mike Chaney clashed with two governors in an effort to establish a state-run insurance exchange. Chaney, current Gov. Phil Bryant, and former Gov. Haley Barbour are all Republicans and on record as opposing the Affordable Care Act. However, Chaney insisted that a state-run exchange was a better option for the state.

Chaney went so far as notifying the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that Mississippi intended to implement a state-run exchange. However, Bryant told HHS that Chaney didn’t have the authority to make that decision, and HHS rejected Mississippi’s exchange blueprint.

Mississippi defaulted to the federally facilitated exchange, and the state also declined to expand Medicaid.

How did the ACA help Mississippi?

The uninsured rate in Mississippi decreased 1.8 percentage points after the ACA’s individual mandate took effect. In 2013, the rate was 22.4 percent. As of mid-2014, the rate was 20.6 percent.

Mississippi’s uninsured rate remains well above the national average of 13.4 percent. It’s also above the 16.5 percent average seen among other states that have not embraced the ACA; i.e., those that have not implemented a state-run marketplace or expanded Medicaid, or have only implemented one of those measures.

Mississippi enrollment in QHPs

During the ACA’s 2014 open enrollment period, 61,494 Mississippians enrolled in qualified health plans (QHPs).

Ninety-four percent of those selecting QHPs qualified for financial assistance, and the average premium after tax subsidies was $23 a month.

PwC, a consulting and auditing organization, analyzed state insurance filings and estimated that the average premium cost in Mississippi will increase 3.8 percent in 2015. However, only limited information was available for the analysis.

Medicaid and CHIP eligibility in Mississippi

Mississippi did not expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. The state’s decision leaves 203,000 Mississippi adults ineligible for Medicaid and an additional 138,000 in the coverage gap according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Without Medicaid expansion, non-elderly, non-disabled adults without children are not eligible for Medicaid. Adults with dependent children qualify for Medicaid only if the family’s income is 29 percent or less of the federal poverty level (FPL). Medicaid eligibility for Mississippi children varies by age and ranges from 133 percent to 194 percent of FPL.

Children in Mississippi up to age 19 qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program if not eligible for Medicaid and the family income level is 209 percent or less of FPL.

Based on existing eligibility criteria, 13,779 Mississippians qualified for Medicaid or CHIP during the 2014 ACA open enrollment period.

Enrollment for Medicaid and CHIP is open throughout the year. Visit the Mississippi Division of Medicaid to learn how to apply for Medicaid or CHIP.

Other ACA reform provisions

The Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) Program is a federal loan program established through the ACA. CO-OPs are directed by their customers and intended to offer consumers more choice in medical insurance options.

CO-OPs operated in 23 states in 2014, and three are expanding into neighboring states in 2015. See where CO-OPs were launched.

No CO-OP was created in Mississippi.

Does Mississippi have a high-risk pool?

Before the ACA’s reforms to the individual health insurance market, eligibility for private coverage was contingent on medical history.  People with pre-existing conditions were often unable to purchase private plans, or could only buy policies that excluded their pre-existing conditions.

The Mississippi Comprehensive Health Insurance Risk Pool (the “Association”) was established in 1992 as a means of providing coverage for people who were unable to purchase comprehensive plans in the private market because of pre-existing conditions.

Now that the ACA has brought guaranteed issue coverage to the private individual market, high risk pools are largely obsolete.  But the Association has remained operational, and has a message on its homepage reassuring members that the ACA is not bringing any immediate changes to their existing coverage.

State-based health reform legislation

Here’s a summary of recent Mississippi legislation related to healthcare reform: