Mississippi Health Insurance Exchange36 Mississippi Counties May Not Participate in Mississippi Health Exchange

In Mississippi, where Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi dominates much of the health insurance market, residents in 36 of the 82 counties may not be able to participate in the federally mandated Mississippi health insurance exchange, when it begins enrolling consumers in October.

Only Two Companies Selling on Mississippi Health Insurance Exchange

As of June 21, only two insurance companies, Magnolia Health Plan and Humana, plan to participate on the Mississippi health insurance exchange for 2014. These two companies only have plans in 46 counties, which excludes large areas in parts of the Delta region and southwest Mississippi from enrolling in the health exchange. Some of the counties that will have to consider other insurance options include Picayune, Laurel, Corinth, Greenville and Natchez.

Insurance department of Mississippi has more information on rates and companies who filed to offer qualified health plans through Mississippi Health Insurance Exchange.All the health plans offered through the exchange needs to have minimum set of required benefits.

Largest Companies in the State Not Participating

The two largest private health insurance companies currently operating in the state will not offer plans on the Mississippi health insurance exchange for the first year it is available. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi has not made any indication of their future plans. The other company, UnitedHealth Group of Minnetonka, Minn., is currently looking at options for 2015 and beyond.

Residents to Rely on Traditional Market

People living in one of the 36 counties without the option of participating in the Mississippi health insurance exchange will still have the ability to purchase policies through traditional means. They can also get coverage through their employer or through Medicare and Medicaid. However, the original projections of 275,000 residents of Mississippi gaining coverage through the exchange will be significantly lower for at least the first year.

In addition, those residents will not be able to take advantage of the federal tax credits offered through the exchange for people whose incomes range from 133 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. A study done in 2012 by the Mississippi Center for Health Policy indicated that 230,000 residents would benefit from these tax credits. Again, though, without the health exchange available in some of the poorest counties in the state, this number will be much lower.

Penalty Situation Unclear

Under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), people who choose not to purchase health insurance are subject to a $95 penalty, which must be paid on a yearly basis. However, it is unknown whether or not this penalty will be waived for residents living in areas where coverage through the Mississippi health insurance exchange is not available. The federal government has yet to address this issue.

More Options to Come

Although it was a surprise to some experts that 36 counties in Mississippi will be without coverage when the ACA goes into effect, it wasn’t much of a shock that there weren’t a bunch of companies waiting to sign up for the exchange. Blue Cross is the dominant provider in the state and it is difficult for other insurers to come in and negotiate favorable rates, at least to begin with because of the small number of customers they would initially have.

Fortunately, the state will likely have more options in the years to come. Many large private insurers, including UnitedHealth, Humana and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, are all expected to offer national health options, which residents of Mississippi will be able to choose when they become available.

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