September 28, 2013 10:19:01 PM
JACKSON-- Mississippi is one of the poorest and unhealthiest states in the nation, and its residents will face some of the highest premiums under a health insurance exchange, an online marketplace that will be run by the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released information Wednesday showing the estimated cost of a mid-range plan will be $448 a month in Mississippi. That compares to an average of $328 in 47 states and the District of Columbia.
HHS said the only states with higher monthly premiums than Mississippi are Wyoming at $516 and Alaska at $474, the price of a midlevel plan before tax credits. Information was not provided for Hawaii, Kentucky and Massachusetts because they hadn't released premium information as of Sept. 16.
Costs can be significantly lower when tax credits are applied for those who are eligible -- one person with an income of up to $45,960 or a family of four with an income of up to $94,200. The subsidies are paid directly to insurance companies from which consumers will buy plans.
For example, a 27-year-old in Mississippi with an income of $25,000 would pay $295 a month before tax credits or $145 a month after tax credits for a midrange plan. The averages in 36 states where the federal government is running an exchange are $214 and $145.
A Mississippi family of four with an income of $50,000 (two adults and two children younger than 18) would pay $1,069 a month before tax credits or $282 a month after tax credits for a midrange plan; the averages for the 36 states are $774 and $282.
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who has no role in running the exchange, said the state's rates are high because there's no competition in the exchange in most parts of the state and because residents have a litany of health concerns.
"There are few companies offering plans. That's number one," Chaney told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "And, we have high instances of diabetes and other health care problems ... high blood pressure."
He also said Mississippi has a relatively high cost of health care because it's a largely rural state with too few physicians and other health care providers.
Dr. Jason Dees, the CEO of Magnolia, said it's also because Mississippians tend to be sicker than many Americans, and insurers suspect those who buy policies may be more likely to consume large amounts of medical care.
"We know we have a very high chronic disease burden here," Dees said.