Brian Hook over at the Missouri WatchDog has a great posting providing videos of the Senate hearing in Kansas City last week on the Obamacare Insurance Exchange. One of the revelations is that Governor Nixon…through his Insurance Commissioner…through the Missouri Heath Insurance Pool (MHIP)…has back-doored the acceptance of the federal funds to establish the Health Insurance Exchange, bypassing the legislature despite the clear indication that a health insurance exchange program presents problems. Despite the governor’s best efforts to avoid scrutiny, it seems apparent that someone is trying to hide something!
MHIP was established by the legislature in 1991 as a quasi-governmental operation. Its purpose was to provide insurance to “high-risk” individuals; in other words, people who could not get insurance through regular channels had an option to get it through MHIP. Last year, a federal high-risk pool was established to cover those with pre-existing conditions who could not get insurance otherwise. MHIP offers programs to assist people in that program as well. It was never intended to be a conduit for a general insurance exchange.
So you can imagine the surprise of many legislators, not to mention the over 71% of Missourians who voted for the Health Care Freedom Act in August 2010, when the MHIP suddenly decided that accepting the $21 million federal grant to establish the Obamacare health insurance exchange was a mission of the organization! The action leaves many scratching their heads. However, after talking with some senators, the picture is beginning to come into focus.
House Bill 609 was sponsored in the Missouri House by Representative Chris Molendorp. While some disagree, I believe this was a good-faith effort to stave off federal imposition of a one-size-fits-all health exchange. This would result in the feds making many decisions for Missouri. I do not agree that it’s an “either we do it or the feds will” scenario. However, everyone in the House thought it was, and the bill passed unanimously.
Fortunately, many in the Senate, such as Senators Cunningham, Lembke and Schaaf, recognized that the insurance exchange was not the way to go. The Senate managed to stop the bill from reaching the Governor’s desk.
Big government being what it is – an entity with an amazing ability to find ways to grow even when stymied in the most direct ways – has implemented an end-around strategy for the health exchange. The MHIP board consists of nine (9) members. Five (5) of these members are part of the health insurance/plan business. That’s reasonable, given the nature of the mission of MHIP. However, one of the members is the Director of the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration, John M. Huff. You may ask, “So what?”
Mr. Huff regulates the insurance industry in the state. He can make, break or cause a lot of pain to insurers in Missouri. Now imagine, the guy who exercises a lot of control over your industry comes to the board you sit on (and happens to also be a member of that board) and tells you what a wonderful idea he has. I know none of us would think to ourselves, “Hmm, this is our regulator. He can do bad things to my company. Maybe I should go along with his idea.” Add to that the bovine fecal matter that is used to sell Obamacare to the healthcare industry and voila, welcome to the Missouri Health Insurance Exchange!
Recently, we have seen where other “quasi-governmental” entities have been in the news for questionable practices. Most notably, the Missouri Employment Mutual (MEM) company has used its “quasi-governmental” status to avoid public and state scrutiny, until now. The common factor between these two is that Governor Nixon appoints the board members.
In the case of MEM, he isn’t suppose to, but does. Now he has ownership of the company’s problems. He definitely has ownership of accepting $21 million to establish a healthcare exchange that the people of Missouri do not support. The question is, what is he going to do about it? Is he going to stand by and allow the MHIP to flaunt questionable authority in defiance of the legislature and people of Missouri or is he going to step in and say, “Wait a minute – you can’t do that”?
Missouri is watching, Governor!