Mississippi received $20 million in a federal grant this month to begin implementation of a new healthcare exchange program. Such programs are mandated under the new federal healthcare legislation, and a state’s failure to act will give the federal government the ability to set up a program for the state on its own.
This has put a number of Republican governors in a tricky position- either begin implementation on healthcare legislation you oppose and are challenging in the courts or let Obama and his administration (should he win re-election) do it for you. Which leads to Haley Barbour. He has been a strong proponent of exchanges for some time, going back to his 2007 re-election campaign.
Earlier this year, the legislature adjourned without working out differences on the operation and oversight of the board in the House and Senate bills. Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney used his authority to move forward with the Mississippi Comprehensive Health Insurance Risk Pool Association, with a subgroup in place to oversee the exchange. This looks like the exchanges Barbour has talked about and supported.
The politics of this is pretty interesting. The House Insurance Chairman who oversaw legislation on that side is Rep. Walter Robinson. The Democrat lost his primary and won’t be back next January. On the Senate side, Republican Sen. Buck Clarke chairs their Insurance Committee and he will have a difficult re-election this fall in a district that is now about 50 percent black. Of course, legislation now appears to be a moot point.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, the only supporter of Obamacare in the Congressional delegation, seemed lukewarm about his support of the exchange only saying that he hopes the state “will honor the spirit of the health care law and do its part to give hard-working families the opportunity to benefit from better health care outcomes.”