The Commissioner does support studying the effort to move toward expansion in the state.

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney sat down with Y’all Politics to discuss several topics in the healthcare world. The first of which was the zero-dollar healthcare plans the federal government says Mississippians will now be eligible for under the American Rescue Plan.

He also touched on the push for a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid, which he says is the wrong way to go to make laws.

Zero-Dollar Healthcare Coverage 

Chaney said the coverage the federal government is referring to comes from an expansion of the tax credits for the ACA. He said it is about an 8.5% increase.

Currently, Mississippi has about 111,000 people on ACA. Chaney says the 200,000 increase for zero-dollar coverage is just a number that has been thrown out by the federal government but there is no indication at this time exactly how many people will benefit. That number includes those already enrolled in the state.

This credit would effectively make healthcare coverage at zero costs for someone making 150% below the poverty line.

“We don’t know enough of the particulars at this point,” said Chaney. “From what we see we think it’ll add about 15 to 20,000 people to the rolls in Mississippi.”

People can find out if they are eligible by going to www.healthcare.gov, which is the federal marketplace. It will then give you an idea of your cost and what doctors are in your network.

Chaney said at this point 97% of people who are currently enrolled in ACA in the state receive a tax credit.

Medicaid Expansion 

“It’s a very, very bad idea to put a referendum up or a constitutional amendment. That is not the way government is supposed to operate,” said Chaney.

The Mississippi Hospital Association has recently backed an effort to expand Medicaid through a ballot initiative in 2022.

RELATED: Mississippi Hospital Association puts support behind ballot initiative to expand Medicaid

Chaney said if the want to expand Medicaid exists, it needs to be done within the system that already works, not add it to the constitution. He said his office just completed a review for a process of Medicaid to buy insurance policies. However, some kind of deductible would be required.

“What we’ve found out from that report is that the system is not working like it is supposed to,” said Chaney. “It’s because people don’t have the money.”

Chaney said while he admires the fact that the Hospital Association is trying to make something happen, a ballot initiative will not work. He said this would add just another tax on hospital beds and disassemble the three companies who are managing Medicaid today. This would then allow for a single contract offered to the Hospital Association, something he says just won’t work.

However, Chaney is for a consideration of Medicaid expansion but says the “devil’s in the details.” While the federal government has offered a 95% match, states would be required to put the cash up front and then submit for reimbursement later.

“It’s logical to look at the expansion of Medicaid but do a thorough study on it,” said Chaney.

Chaney says the initiative proposal is about who has the money. He says if it moves forward, whoever is putting the money behind it will see the votes one way or another.

He also feared that if this is successful the hospitals would eventually raise their rates with a monopoly in place, which has caused the increase in insurance policies in the first place. The Commissioner said as an insurance regulator he has no control over how much healthcare really costs and that is where some of the issues lie.

While the feed with Chaney cut off, he told Y’all Politics on a later phone call that he hopes the Legislature would consider some sort of expansion in the 2021 Legislative session.