JACKSON, Mississippi — Mississippi consumers should not see a big impact from President Barack Obama's reversal on a key part of the federal health law, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said Thursday.
But, like many state insurance commissioners across the nation, Chaney also said the president's actions could hurt the insurance industry and increase prices over time.
Obama said Thursday that Americans should be able to renew individual or group health insurance plans that don't meet minimum coverage standards under the Affordable Care Act that he signed in 2010. In the past few weeks, companies have been canceling such policies and that has brought sharp criticism from opponents who say the law gives government too large a role in health insurance.
Chaney told The Associated Press this week that about 500 health insurance policies have been canceled in Mississippi because they didn't cover all services required by the law. He said the cancellations were made by smaller companies, not large insurers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, United or Humana.
Chaney said that several months ago, he encouraged insurers that offer all the required services to extend health policies an additional year, until December 2014. He said that allowed consumers "to keep their existing coverage with minimum rate increases and with more choices."
Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, head of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, said it was unclear how the change proposed by the president could be put into effect because policyholders in many states have already been notified about cancellations, and rates and plans have already been approved for 2014. He said the changes could lead to market disruptions and higher premiums.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday released statistics about how many Americans have purchased insurance through health exchanges, or online marketplaces. Mississippi is not operating its own website, so residents in the state would shop for coverage through http://www.healthcare.gov , the federally run website that has been beset by problems since it launched Oct. 1.
HHS said 148 Mississippi residents have selected coverage through the federal website. The Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, a nonprofit group that supports the federal health overhaul, estimates that 275,000 Mississippi residents could shop for coverage through the site. The state has almost 3 million residents.