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Health insurance exchange won't cover all counties

The Affordable Care Act requires every state to establish a health insurance exchange by 2014. Anyone can buy their insurance through this exchange. But if you meet certain income requirements, you can qualify for subsidies which would help lower premiums.

If you don't have health insurance or don't like the plan you have, you'll have a new option this fall. But it all depends on where you live. Open enrollment for a federally-run health care exchange is set to open October 1.

"An insurance exchange is just basically a marketplace for the purchase of health insurance coverage, designed to allow individuals to go out and go to a web site, compare plans and make the right purchase for them," described Deputy Insurance Commissioner Mark Haire.

But there won't be a long list of providers to choose from for Mississippians.

"As of today with the federal exchange you have Magnolia Health Plans and then Humana. Together they are covering 46 counties," said Haire.

Just people in four counties: Hinds, Rankin, Madison and Desoto, will have a choice between the two providers. The other counties in blue will just have one option.

36 counties are not included in the exchange at all.

"Insurance carriers are not required to operate in every county in a state in which they participate on a federal exchange," Haire said.

Those counties are scattered throughout the state and don't have any particular qualification leaving them out.

"It's a product of carriers looking at where they can be successful. What fits their business model," explained Haire.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney offered up a proposal for a state-run exchange last year. His office says they believed all counties could be covered under that model. But Governor Phil Bryant refused to sign off on it.

"Turned out HHS said well, with the differences of opinion we're not comfortable approving your application to do this at the state level, so we're not going to approve you," Haire said.

So, Mississippi defaulted to the federally-run exchange. Coverage under the exchange is set to begin January 1.

The insurance commissioner's office is currently working with providers to see if any of the counties left off the list can get access before the exchange takes effect.


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