Health
1:55 am
Thu January 26, 2012

Board Suspends All Health Exchange Activity

The use of about $27 million in federal funds to help create a health insurance exchange in Missouri has come to a complete halt. 

Last summer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded Missouri a grant for $26,716,684 to develop the IT infrastructure for an exchange and update the state’s old Medicaid computer system. 

The grant went to a quasi-government board, the Missouri Health Insurance Pool (MHIP). But, the group has faced mounting political pressure to step away from it. 

Several Republican lawmakers have long opposed MHIP’s role because the group isn’t subject to legislative oversight.  The lawmakers also worry Governor Jay Nixon, a democrat, might set up a state exchange without approval from the legislature.  Others say they’d prefer to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the federal health law before moving forward with anything exchange-related.

During MHIP's executive board meeting yesterday, Vice President Cheryl Dillard confirmed that MHIP will no longer be involved with the grant.

“We’ve suspended all work with the grant,” Dillard said. “There’s nothing else going on with the exchange at this point.” 

Governor Nixon could move the grant to another state agency, but that has yet to happen. 

The only information I have is that we’re working with OA [Nixon’s Office of Administration] to see if there’s a potential to work within the appropriations process for the funding,” said Missouri Insurance Director and MHIP board member, John Huff, during yesterday’s meeting. 

The board also passed and published minutes from their December 15 meeting, which included an approved motion to step away from the grant through the end of 2011:

“The MHIP is suspending all work relating to the Establishment Grant and the MHIP board directs the Project Director of the Establishment Grant between now and December 31, 2011 to work in cooperation with the Missouri Executive Branch and Legislature to make application to transfer the Establishment Grant from MHIP to a Missouri State Agency that is subject to the appropriation process and approve the payment and reimbursement from the Establishment Grant of expenses incurred to date.”

Meanwhile, a bill moving through the Missouri Senate this week would bar the governor from establishing a state exchange and ban state agencies from taking part in any exchange planning, unless approved by the legislature. 

Health exchanges, as outlined in the federal health law, are meant to be online marketplaces where individuals and small businesses can compare and shop for health plans.  The exchanges are scheduled to be up and running in each state by 2014.  If a state decides not to develop one, the federal government will run one instead.

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