One company to offer health insurance in 36 counties

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, July 27, 2013

One option is better than none for Leflore, Carroll and the other 34 counties that would have been left out of what is being touted as a way for consumers to get the best deal on health insurance.

It’s not going, however, to be much of a competitive marketplace — at least not at first — with only one company offering coverage options for those who use the exchange to buy insurance.

The exchanges — an integral aspect of Obamacare — have been promoted as an Expedia-like program for health insurance. Just as travelers can go online to shop for the best deals on airline flights and hotel rooms, consumers were supposed to get a similar opportunity to comparison-shop for health insurance.

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It’s not playing out that way so far in Mississippi.

The only counties in the state that will have more than one insurer participating in the health-care exchange are also the most populous — DeSoto and the three Jackson-area counties. Even they will have only two companies from which to pick when the exchange starts enrolling customers in October.

The exchange is getting off to a slow start in Mississippi for a couple of probable reasons. …

Why is a viable health-care exchange important? It’s the only way that working- and middle-class consumers can access the tax credits and subsidies that Obamacare is offering to help them purchase coverage. The Center for Mississippi Health Policy has estimated that as many as 230,000 Mississippians — roughly 8 percent of the population — could receive tax credits totaling $900 million a year.

Consumers will benefit most in those states where they receive not only the tax credits but the lower pricing that competition among insurance companies would bring. Most of Mississippi unfortunately is going to start off realizing only part of the potential savings.