Chaney seeks fourth term; Amos hopes to make changes as insurance commissioner

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America

Mississippi general election is Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019.

Republican Mike Chaney, a veteran of Mississippi politics, is seeking his fourth term as the state’s insurance commissioner. He will be challenged in the Nov. 5 general election by Jackson small business owner Robert Amos, a Democrat, who in 2015 ran unsuccessfully for Central District Transportation commissioner.

While Chaney is viewed as the favorite, Amos said his campaign “is going better than expected.” He said he has been to between 40 and 45 of the state’s 82 counties to campaign.

Amos, age 46, a former educator at both the high school and higher education levels, also has served as an administrator in the insurance industry. He taught science classes and in career technical school taught classes related to the insurance industry.

In the Legislature, Chaney served in several capacities, including as Senate Education Committee chair. He also was on the Insurance Committee while in the Legislature. He served in both the House and Senate. He was one of the six legislative negotiators who in 1997 hammered out the agreement on the Mississippi Adequate Education Program – landmark legislation at the time that changed the method of funding local school districts.

In his hometown of Vicksburg, Chaney was a business owner and farmer.

“My priorities while in office remain steadfastly committed to consumer protection and application of technology for efficiency of the department to serve the state and consumers,” Chaney, age 75, told Mississippi Today.

Amos said he was running “to stop the price gouging that has gone on for decades with respect to the insurance industry in Mississippi.” He also has run for mayor of Jackson and for Hinds County supervisor.

The Insurance commissioner oversees the Mississippi Insurance Department that has regulatory authority over the insurance companies. The office also provides some oversight of mobile home manufacturers. In addition, the insurance commissioner serves as chair of the state Fire Academy and as fire marshal.

If elected, Amos said, “I hope to approve reductions in insurance premiums as well as provide access to insurance for over 300,000 Mississippians to save lives and our rural hospitals.”

Expanding Medicaid, as is allowed under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, could provide health care coverage to primarily the working poor. Studies have indicated that as many as 300,000 Mississippians would be eligible for the program. But it takes action by the Legislature to expand Medicaid. The state’s Republican leaders in the Legislature and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant have opposed such action.

When asked of Chaney’s position on Medicaid expansion, Beth Reiss, a spokesperson for the Insurance Department, said Chaney believes “Medicaid expansion is a gubernatorial and legislative issue that he monitors. Regarding expansion, his only comment was he thinks it would be costly to taxpayers.”

Under expansion, the federal government would pay 90 percent of the costs of providing health care to those who qualify while the state would be responsible for 10 percent. The Mississippi Hospital Association has proposed a plan that would pay the state’s share of the costs through assessments on their members and a minimal premium assessed on those covered by the plan.

Reiss said Chaney believes that proposal “is flawed.”

Chaney said, “”My aim is to create the highest degree of economic security, quality of life and public safety for citizens at the lowest possible cost. In 2018, my office returned more than $3.5 million in claims to consumers. I want to continue giving Mississippians back their hard-earned money.”

For information on all candidates running for statewide office, view our #MSElex Voter Guide.