I follow politics pretty closely, but for some reason, I really haven’t gotten emotional about this insurance exchange fight between Governor Phil Bryant and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. I think reasonable minds can disagree on an issue, particularly as emergent and complex as this one is. Candidly, I don’t know which side is right, which is odd for me because I am only occasionally wrong but rarely in doubt.
I am putting the reactions of all parties below, just so it’s in one place, but a few things stand out to me.
1. Whoever in the White House that put the kibosh on the Mississippi exchange is a political idiot. 18 other states have been approved so far. It’s pretty obvious that HHS’s top brass wanted a state run exchange here. Whether you agree with Chaney or Bryant, the fact that the White House could have had a state run exchange in the heart of red state country and literally passed up on it is just baffling. Utah apparently got denied, too. Don’t think that other red state governors aren’t watching how Mississippi and Utah were treated here. Their blueprint is now set and Obamacare’s fault lines along red vs. blue states likely just got deeper.
2. Mike Chaney stuck his neck out on this deal politically. Again, whether you think it was right or wrong from a policy perspective, it took guts. And he does believe in the cause of an independent exchange as evidenced by what he says at the end of his press release, “The Mississippi Insurance Department will continue to work with HHS in the future to develop a free market state-operated small business exchange independent of and not connected to any Federal program.”
3. At the end of the day, it seems that Obama and Phil Bryant wanted the same thing. Namely, for the feds to have complete and unfettered control of Obamacare. Bryant politically wants the narrative that he fought it all the way and wants clean hands when/if healthcare costs and taxes go up, which may very well happen. The Obama White House just seems to want the control.
The justification for the denial as cited in the letter was that since no one else in Mississippi (namely, the Governor) was on board that it probably just wouldn’t work.
At the end of the day, I don’t think anyone involved (Chaney, Bryant or the White House) will pay much of a political price. But the truth of the matter is we won’t know who was ultimately right or who won/lost in this fight for probably four or five years.