Governor vetoes two insurance bills, saying they would hurt MS

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, March 16, 2023

On Wednesday, March 15, Gov. Tate Reeves vetoed two Senate bills that deal with insurance, saying they would hurt the state’s healthcare.

“Today, I vetoed two bills that had the potential to seriously increase the cost of healthcare 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 just includes some correctable mistakes.”

SB2622 would have enacted the Mississippi Prior Authorization Reform Act. It 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 have tightened up the process to gain approvals.

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The bill was co-sponsored by nine senators, and received no negative votes in the Senate, five in the House. It passed again without opposition in the Senate before going to the desk of the governor.

“This bill would force insurance companies to give an answer more quickly — great! It also had some unintended consequences,” Reeves wrote about SB2622. “The bill has a lot of technical components: like administrative hearings that are in an incorrect place, untenable costs for Medicaid, and other issues that cause me not to be comfortable signing but hopefully we can get a great bill done soon!”

Senate Bill 2224 would have authorized the Commissioner of Insurance to adopt rules and regulations to examine and address any inequalities regarding provider reimbursement rates. Introduced by Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-D19), the bill passed the Senate without opposition and with only five votes against it in the House. It passed again as returned to the Senate and was sent to Reeves’ desk.

Reeves vetoed the bill, tweeting, “They can massively fine private insurance if they aren’t ‘equittable’ [sic] enough … That is crazy. It’s not what you expect in MS, but that’s why we read every bill closely!”

The bill mentions equality, however. Equality means each individual or group is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity allocates exact resources and opportunities to each person based upon their circumstances, in order to reach an equal outcome.

Reeves said SB2224 is part of “an accelerated attempt … to erode the free market in exchange for bureaucratic control over all aspects of our lives” and would negatively affect Medicaid and Medicare plans.

“It is typically justified by our country’s political power structure, and their commitment to ‘equity’ at any cost. We are typically asked to hand power to a small cadre of government officials in order to achieve equity, and they are given unprecedented power to pursue this goal,” Reeves tweeted. “… Such power would bestow on the Commissioner the unchecked authority to review the reimbursement rates set by contract between healthcare providers and third-party mayors and arbitrarily mandate that a higher rate be paid under the threat of a $10,000 penalty for each service provided at a perceived inequitable rate.

“In short, SB 2224 would empower the Commissioner to invalidate the terms of contracts between private parties and make the Commissioner the rate czar for healthcare in Mississippi,” Reeves continued. “The grant of such authority would … result in an increase in already too-high insurance premiums paid by hardworking Mississippians and Mississippi businesses who are participants in the private insurance market.”

Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney did not agree with the governor’s decisions.

“I am certainly disappointed in the Governor’s veto message for SB 2224 and SB 2622. Both of these bills are consumer-friendly bills that would benefit healthcare providers and consumers in our state. The Governor is sadly mistaken that SB 2224 would have affected Medicare and Medicaid plans as the Department of Insurance does not have jurisdiction over these plans and the bill did not expand that jurisdiction. Senate Bill 2224 would give the Department of Insurance the important tools necessary to ensure that Mississippians would continue to have access to quality healthcare at reasonable rates,” Chaney said. “As your Commissioner of Insurance, I have endeavored to protect the consumers in our state and, as long as I am your insurance commissioner, I will continue to protect consumers and healthcare providers and provide a level playing field for all insurance carriers in this state.”

These are the only bills vetoed to-date in the 2023 session.