JACKSON, Miss.- With Mississippians expecting rate increases on their health insurance plans, many are asking; when will it end?
There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, however, for those not satisfied with the coverage, cost, or attainability of insurance provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare.”
Since being signed into law by President Obama in 2010, Obamacare has received mixed reviews across the board. In Mississippi, around 70,000 people have signed up for health insurance provided by the service.
“We were told there were 110,000 signed up for the act but in actuality there were only about 70,000 that signed up and stayed on the plan,” said State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. “We find that across the board that’s pretty accurate, maybe 60 percent of the people who sign up actually stay on the plan.”
Chaney said a big problem with the plan is that the penalty does not outweigh the cost. A stipulation of The Affordable Care Act was that all Americans were required to purchase health insurance. However, that stipulation is not carrying out as intended.
“The penalty isn’t working. Why would I pay $4,000 a year extra out of my salary just so I don’t have to pay $600 in fines? It just doesn’t make sense,” said Chaney.
Currently, Mississippi’s rates are about $243 on average while Alabama is a little over $483.
If you are at or around 200 percent of poverty level, roughly$25,000 a year, you’re still paying what Alabama residents are paying, someone else is just picking up the rest of the tab. That someone is the Federal Government, using tax dollars to make up the difference.
Chaney believes that President Elect Donald Trump will make significant changes to the current state of health insurance. Policies allowing children to stay on their parent’s insurance until a certain age will me maintained, as well as covering those with pre-existing conditions.
Those terms were agreed upon across the board. However, changes in the ratio between what a young person pays and what an older individual is required to pay could be seen.
Also on the cutting board are transitional plans. These are group plans for large and small employers that are sold in Mississippi and 35 other states. They are not fully ACA compliant which means they may have a lower deductible than the Bronze plan.
“What I would love to see him (Trump) do is to allow us to continue selling transitional plans not just in Mississippi but all the other 35 states that have them,” said Chaney.
If transitional plans are not approved to be allowed by December of 2017, nearly a quarter million Mississippians will see rate increases of up to 500 percent. Rendering these plans unaffordable by all accounts.
Concern over individuals abusing the system has also been on the forefront of conversation concerning healthcare. There have been reports of people signing up for a plan, with a preexisting condition, then receiving treatment and dropping the insurance afterwards. Chaney said this is actually not as common as you would think.
“The biggest problem is actually what we call SEP, Special Enrollment Periods where people will buy policies so they can get a hip replacement or other elective surgery. If some of those periods were cut out I think the problem would be solved,” he said.
Chaney also says that policies are only being used and paid for whenever individuals see fit, causing a huge economic impact on tax payers and insurance providers.
So what is a solution?
Chaney said he is a big supporter of the Health Savings Account and he believes that is the direction that the insurance industry is headed.
“I think individual tax relief has to come and the way you get it is through a health savings account,” said Chaney.
Originally the Obama administration restricted those accounts to $2,500 a year, the restriction also prohibited policy holders from having access to generic brands for medication. Chaney thinks that Republicans will address these issues as soon as possible to avoid a greater national debt.
“If you need health insurance and you can afford to buy on the ACA go out and buy it. As Mr. Trump said it won’t be the morning I’m sworn in, it won’t be two years down the road, it will be somewhere in between that that we will see a change,” said Chaney.