Governor vetoes two insurance bills, saying they will hurt MS
Posted at 5:00 PM Thursday March 16, 2023
On Wednesday, March 15, Governor Tate Reeves vetoed two Senate bills that address insurance, saying they would harm the state’s health care system.
“Today I vetoed two bills that had the potential to seriously increase health care costs in Mississippi,” Reeves tweeted late Wednesday. “One is a bad idea and I can’t see myself supporting it. One is a good idea that only includes some fixable bugs.
SB2622 would have enacted the Mississippi Advance Authorization Reform Act. This would require insurance issuers to maintain a complete list of services for which prior authorizations are required and to make the information readily available to consumers. It would also tighten the process for getting approvals.
The bill was supported by nine senators and received no negative votes in the Senate, five in the House. It again passed unopposed in the Senate before going to the governor’s desk.
“This bill will force insurance companies to respond faster – great! There were also some unintended consequences,” Reeves wrote about SB2622. “The bill has a lot of technical components: like misplaced administrative hearings, unaffordable Medicaid costs, and other issues that make me uncomfortable signing, but hopefully we can get a great bill done soon!”
Senate Bill 2224 would have authorized the insurance commissioner to adopt rules and regulations to review and address any disparities in provider reimbursement rates. Introduced by Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-D19), the bill passed the Senate without opposition and with just five votes against in the House. It again passed as returned in the Senate and was sent to Reeves’ desk.
Reeves vetoed the bill, tweeting: “They can massively fine private insurance if they are not ‘fair’ [sic] enough… This is crazy. Not what you expect in MS, but that’s why we read every bill carefully!”
However, the bill mentions equality. Equality means that every individual or group is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity allocates accurate resources and opportunities to each person based on their circumstances to achieve an equal outcome.
Reeves said SB2224 is part of an “accelerated attempt … to undermine the free market in exchange for bureaucratic control over every aspect of our lives” and would negatively affect Medicaid and Medicare plans.
“This is usually justified by the political power structure in our country and their commitment to ‘justice’ at all costs. We are usually asked to hand over power to a small number of government officials to achieve justice, and they are given unprecedented power to pursue that goal,” Reeves tweeted. “…Such a power would give the commissioner the unchecked power to review reimbursement rates set in contract between third-party health care providers and mayors and arbitrarily mandate payment of a higher rate under threat of a $10,000 penalty per any service provided at a perceived unfair rate.
“In short, SB 2224 would authorize the commissioner to void the terms of contracts between private parties and make the commissioner the rate king for health care in Mississippi,” Reeves continued. “Granting such authority would … result in an increase in the already too high insurance premiums paid by hard-working Mississippians and Mississippi businesses that participate in the private insurance market.”
Insurance Commissioner Mike Cheney disagreed with the governor’s decisions.
“I am certainly disappointed with the Governor’s veto announcement of SB 2224 and SB 2622. Both bills are consumer-friendly and would benefit health care providers and consumers in our state. The Governor is sadly mistaken that SB 2224 would affect Medicare and Medicaid plans, as the Department of Insurance does not have jurisdiction over those plans and the bill does not expand that jurisdiction. Senate Bill 2224 will give the Department of Insurance the important tools needed to ensure Mississippians continue to have access to quality health care at reasonable prices,” Cheney said. “As your insurance commissioner, I have strived to protect our state’s consumers, and as long as I am your insurance commissioner, I will continue to protect consumers and health care providers and ensure a level playing field for all insurance carriers in this state.”
These are the only vetoed bills so far in the 2023 session.