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Lawmakers working to finalize bill moving to state-based health insurance exchange

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The Mississippi legislature is working to send a bill to the desk of Gov. Tate Reeves that would create a state-based health insurance exchange and potentially save the state millions of dollars.

House Bill 1647 would move Mississippi away from the federal exchange created through the Affordable Care Act, which currently costs the state roughly $15 million annually. In turn, the state’s exchange would allow an independent actuarial firm and a regulatory board to determine rates for health insurance.

The Senate, after discussing with Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney earlier in the week, passed an amended version of the legislation on Wednesday with a 38-14 vote. The majority of lawmakers in both chambers tend to agree that health insurance costs need to be lessened and this could be a route to do that.

Under a state-based exchange, customers would have the chance to choose their personalized coverage. That coverage would likely qualify for a tax benefit. After being insured in the state plan, bills accumulated by the user would then be sent to federal insurance operators.

“House Bill 1647 will allow Mississippi to create a state-based health insurance exchange in which any citizen can participate,” Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann wrote on X. “The major benefit: it will allow us to create a support system to help people find a health insurance plan that fits their needs.”

Chaney and other experts believe that if a state-based exchange plan is enacted, Mississippi would save up to around $200 million on health insurance costs. The insurance commissioner is also of the belief that a state plan would curtail efforts to default to enrolling people for Medicaid coverage.

The legislature is still mulling over a Medicaid expansion proposal. In late March, the Senate passed its plan to qualify residents between the ages of 19 and 64 up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level for extended coverage. Last week, the House invited the bill to be ironed out in conference.

Meanwhile, any Medicaid expansion plan would likely have to be veto-proof as Gov. Tate Reeves remains an ardent opponent of what he considers to be an “extension of Obamacare.”

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