October 31, 2013 10:08:09 AM
From time to time, we receive calls and emails from people who take issue with the position we have taken on our editorial page. There are also occasions when that person will challenge the accuracy of our assertions.
Rarely are we "happy" to take those calls or emails because we strive to be fair and accurate.
Tuesday marked one of those happier occasions. Mike Chaney, the state's insurance commissioner, called to take issue with our Oct. 18 editorial entitled "No time for guerrilla warfare," in which we chastised the state's elected officials, including the insurance commissioner's office, for being indifferent to Mississippians who called them seeking information on the Affordable Care Act.
The basis for that charge came from a reporter's call to Chaney's office, where he was told that the ACA, also known as Obamacare, was a federal program and the state would offer no assistance.
Chaney wanted to make it clear that this is not his position on the matter. In fact, he said the person who took our reporter's call was in error on several fronts.
Chaney said that when residents call his office, they are given not only the federal website and toll-free phone numbers, but a state-run website (mid.ms.gov) and a toll-free number that connects to a call center in Hattiesburg (800-318-2596).
In addition, Chaney said, his office has put together and distributed brochures with relevant information throughout the state. The best bet is to check with your local library, although some civic organizations may have the brochures as well.
In this case, we are happy to be "wrong" because being wrong proves there is at least one government entity in the state that puts the needs of its citizens above political ideology. That that entity should reside under Chaney's domain should not be surprising.
While there is no confusion over Chaney's political loyalty -- he is very much a Republican and a conservative -- he is one of those increasingly rare public servants for whom the job takes precedence over party. Chaney is an insurance commissioner who happens to be a Republican rather than a Republican who happens to be insurance commissioner.
This should surprise no one, of course, because Chaney has butted heads with his own party leaders. Most notably, Chaney established a state health care exchange over the protests of Gov. Phil Bryant. His reasoning: A state exchange would offer better, more affordable health insurance plans than would be available if the state refused to set up its own exchange and residents were forced to use the federal exchange. Ultimately, Chaney's efforts to run a state exchange failed, thanks mainly to the political pressure exerted against it.
When the first figures were reported, just 35 Mississippians had signed up through the federal exchange. In the four months Chaney's exchange was up and running, more than 600 residents had found health insurance. It is likely that, had Chaney's state exchange been allowed to remain, far more Mississippians would have found health insurance as prescribed by law.
While Chaney is hardly a supporter of Obamacare, he recognizes he has a responsibility to the people of Mississippi that transcends party politics and philosophy.
There are few occasions where we are happy to be wrong.
This is one of them.