Sam R. Hall: State-run health insurance failed due to politics

Many – if not most – political watchers were a bit stunned by the federal government’s rejection of Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney’s plan for a state-run health insurance exchange.

Chaney clearly thinks the the rejection is far more political than practical, and if that’s the case, it’s a shame.

The most telling part of Chaney’s 5 p.m. Thursday press conference comes from this passage from Geoff Pender’s coverage:

In announcing the long-awaited decision on Thursday, Republican Chaney criticized the White House. He also has criticized fellow Republican Bryant recently but made mainly oblique references to him Thursday.

“I feel betrayed at this point,” Chaney said. He said he’s waiting for further explanation of the denial from the Department of Health and Human Services, but he believes the decision came from “the White House” and was based on politics, not the merits of his plan.

“I think HHS was more upset than we are,” Chaney said. “This decision came from the top, the White House.”

Chaney said he didn’t want to speculate on the reasons for disapproval of the plan, but then he did.

“I think it’s our ability to work with Medicaid … and the fact they think the political atmosphere in this state is not conducive to operating a state-based exchange.”

In other words, Chaney worked closely with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to put together a state-run plan that would win approval and still best fit the needs of Mississippi, a plan he has said repeatedly looked largely like the one he had developed when then-Gov. Haley Barbour and then-Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant worked to pass a health care exchange in the Senate.

Clarion Ledger