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Gov. Tate Reeves allows prior authorization bill to become law without his signature

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves last week allowed a measure that regulates how insurance companies decide which prescription drugs and medical procedures to cover for a consumer to become law without his signature. 

Reeves wrote on social media that he allowed Senate Bill 2140 to become law because reform for the process, called prior authorization, is needed. But didn’t give his full stamp of approval because he believes it could increase insurance premiums for state employees.

“Over the past couple of years, Mississippi has made significant gains in closing the pay gap between private and public sector employees,” Reeves wrote. “Senate Bill 2140, however, represents a step in the wrong direction and will have the likely unintended consequence of widening that pay gap again.” 

READ MORE: Legislature passes prior authorization reform for medical procedures, drugs

When the Legislature is in session, the Mississippi Constitution gives the governor five days to either sign or veto legislation that passed both chambers of the Capitol. If the governor does neither after five days, the bill automatically becomes law. 

This is the first time during Reeves’ second term and during the 2024 session that the governor has not signed a bill into law.

Prior authorization is when physicians have to seek approval from an insurance company before the company will cover a prescribed procedure, service or medication that is not an emergency.

If an insurance organization denies a prior authorization claim, a consumer could be forced to pay for a prescription or medical procedure out of pocket. 

Insurance companies typically believe prior authorization helps ensure doctors provide only medically necessary services. Doctors argue the process is typically handled by clerical insurance staffers ill-equipped to understand medical procedures. 

The bipartisan proposal would require insurance companies to create a “portal” or website by January 2025 for doctors to submit prior authorization applications.

For emergency services such as treating serious injuries from a car accident, prior authorization is not required under the new measure. For urgent services or procedures that can help treat someone in intense pain, insurance companies have 48 hours to process requests. For non-urgent services, insurance companies have seven days to process requests. 

The measure overwhelmingly passed both chambers of the Legislature. Both House Public Health Chairman Sam Creekmore and Senate Insurance Committee Chairman Walter Michel, said they’re glad the bill became law because they believe it will help thousands of consumers and patients. 

“These are real life issues,” Creekmore said. “This is a great solution to a real problem that affects many Mississippians.” 

Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney’s office will be responsible for regulating insurance companies’ compliance with the new law.  

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