Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney informed HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Nov. 14 that he will oversee the creation of a health insurance exchange despite the objections of Gov. Phil Bryant. On Monday, in a previously unreleased letter, Bryant wrote Sebelius to say he “feels compelled to notify you of my complete disagreement with this move.”
Chaney — who by state law has broad authority to create a health care exchange without oversight from state legislators or Bryant — said the governor has failed to explain why Washington would be better than Mississippi to operate the state’s health care exchange.
The two Republicans have squabbled since July over whether to pursue an exchange, with Bryant insisting the state not do so and Chaney arguing in favor.
“The governor asked me, ‘What authority do you have to do this?’” Chaney told POLITICO. “And I said, ‘Phil, what authority do you have to stop me?’”
After Obama won reelection, Chaney said he confronted Bryant Nov. 12 in a men’s room during a local conference and asked why the governor wasn’t returning his phone calls. The governor, he said, explained that he’d been on a hunting trip out of cellphone range. The next day, the two men met at the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion, where Chaney said Bryant told him that the GOP governors had agreed to stand together in opposing the exchanges.
“I said, ‘Can you articulate any reason for us not to do this?’” Chaney told POLITICO. “He said, ‘We — some of the Republican governors — should not give in to the Obama administration on this, because they will change the rules and control everything. You cannot trust them.’”
Bryant’s office confirmed the meeting but declined to discuss specifics of the conversation.
The next day, Chaney, a vocal Mitt Romney supporter who says “I hate the Affordable Care Act” and would have voted against it, submitted his exchange plans to HHS. Two days later, Bryant fired off a news release condemning the move.