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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)-It was supposed to be a cornerstone of the nation’s health care reform…online health insurance exchanges where consumers could go to shop for health insurance to meet their needs. Mississippi has been working for months to get companies involved.

But the state’s reputation for poor health is making companies reluctant to get on board. So far, only two companies have said they’ll participate but they will only offer plans in 46 of the state’s 82 counties.

Health and insurance industry leaders say insurance exchanges could go a long way toward making health insurance available to the poor and working poor. But those same groups also often have health problems. That’s especially true in the Mississippi Delta. So when Magnolia and Humana insurance companies unveiled their health care exchange insurance programs, they only are offering plans in some counties. Most of the Delta region is excluded. That means federal tax subsidies to help pay for insurance won’t be available to residents there.

“To get the federal subsides that will be afforded under the affordable care act, you have to go through the exchange so it’s going through the exchange so it’s going to make it tough for a lot of people,” says Jim Galloway.

Jim Galloway, the president of GCM Columbus Insurance says the federal subsidies are very beneficial for low income-families.

“The entry point is four hundred percent of the federal poverty level; which is 23-THOUSAND for a family of four. So four hundred percent of that is ninety-two thousand dollars,” says Galloway.

A family of four that goes through the exchange can be eligible for a 70-percent subsidy.

Even though that’s a great percentage for a family of four, Galloway believes many Mississippians will go uninsured because the penalty is actually cheaper.

“I think you are going to see a large segment of our population uninsured just as they are now. That’s the dilemma, the penalty for not carrying coverage is 95-DOLLARS a year for the first year or so. Relative to the insurance premium that’s very insignificant,” says Galloway.

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney continues to work to get more companies involved and more counties included. State lawmakers aren’t sure he’ll be successful but they say they are guided by one goal.

“Accessibility, availability, affordability are going to be key. They always have been in Mississippi, but there going to be more key with the need for health care to be provided for our citizens,” says Terry Burton.

It’s still unclear how the uninsured will be penalized if they live in a county where insurance options aren’t available.

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