- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2013

Federal health officials have denied Mississippi’s request to set up a state-run health exchange under President Obama’s health care law, settling an unusual political dispute in which the Republican governor overruled the state’s own insurance commissioner.

In a letter Thursday to the commissioner, Mike Chaney, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it was siding with the governor.

“With a lack of support from your governor and no formal commitment to coordinate from other state agencies, we do not see a feasible pathway to conditionally approving a state-based exchange in Mississippi for 2014,” the department said in its letter.

Mr. Chaney had petitioned HHS in November to set up a state-run exchange to offer health plans under Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act. But Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, one of a number of GOP governors who opposed the new health law, said he didn’t want the state involved.

Other states have decided to let the federal government run the virtual insurance marketplace for them, or opted to run the exchange as a state-federal partnership.

HHS told Mr. Chaney they were “impressed” by the work he had completed so far and encouraged him to apply for a partnership exchange by Feb. 15.

In a statement, Mr. Chaney signaled some disappointment in seeing his plans come to a halt.

“Mississippi has long led the nation in plans to develop a free-market exchange,” he said.

Mr. Bryant, who believes that all of the exchanges will inherently be controlled by the federal government, wrote federal officials last year to tell them Mr. Chaney’s application was not valid and that he, as the governor, had the final say over whether to apply for a state-run exchange.