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  • HHS Waivers and the Three I’s of Obamacare

    Yuval Levin has made the important point that, when HHS granted waivers exempting some employer health plans from Obamacare’s prohibition on annual benefit limits, it was the “kind of government by whim, and not by law” that is “the essence of the regulatory state.” It is indeed a very troubling effect, and one that will be a byproduct of numerous other Obamacare provisions as well.

    That said, it is worth noting that the “McDonald’s issue” also highlights the ignorance and incompetence behind the crafting of this health-care legislation.

    As to the first: Anyone with more than a passing familiarity with health-insurance markets should be aware of the existence of the so-called “mini-med” plans in question. Mini-med health plans are essentially the mirror image of “high-deductible” plans. They cover routine care with little or no co-pays, but not major medical expenses. Most people probably don’t know that, it’s true, but it’s simply inexcusable to be a congressman (or a congressional health staffer) responsible for writing this legislation and not realize that prohibiting health plans from setting annual coverage limits will drive mini-med plans out of the market.

    As to the second: Setting aside whether or not one thinks it’s good public policy to regulate mini-meds out of existence, consider that Obamacare’s designers had not one, but two very simple legislative fixes available to them, both of which could easily have prevented the substantive (and public-relations) problems they created for themselves on this score.

    One option would have been to simply delay the effective date of the prohibition on annual coverage limits until after 2014, when the legislation’s new subsidies for more comprehensive coverage become available to workers losing their current mini-med coverage.

    The other option would have been to exempt mini-meds plans from the new coverage requirement by definitionally excluding them as a form of “supplemental coverage.” This second approach even has a statutory precedent that Obamacare’s designers should have been well aware of. Specifically, the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) — Congress’s first and much more limited foray into federal regulation of health plans — established a list of “supplemental” coverages that are exempted from requirements imposed on comprehensive medical insurance. Such exempted insurance products include dental-only, vision-only, workman’s compensation, long-term care, etc. Obamacare does nothing to alter those existing statutory exemptions, and Congress could easily have avoided this issue by adding mini-med plans to that list.

    Thus, if the McDonald’s plan in question were instead, say, a dental plan, the coverage would clearly be exempt — under both current law and Obamacare — and it would never have become an issue or a PR problem for the administration and for Obamacare supporters.

    While this may all seem somewhat arcane, it is far from arcane to the million-plus workers for whom continuation of their current coverage is now contingent on the politically motivated decisions of HHS political appointees.

    The whole law is bad policy. But even if one agrees with the policy, one can still recognize that the legislation itself was badly executed. The way for conservatives to drive Obamacare’s negatives even higher than they already are is by repeatedly reinforcing the theme that Obamacare is the product of three “I” words: ideology, ignorance, and incompetence. The more negative the public’s opinion of Obamacare becomes, the more likely repeal becomes, regardless of the partisan make-up of the next Congress.

    So far, conservatives have done a fairly good job focusing on the ideology part, but we can do more to highlight the other two. It is also a message conservatives can take to those who may not object to Obamacare’s ideological underpinnings as strongly as we do, but who will become increasingly disillusioned with its results as they unfold.

    Cross-posted at Critical Condition.

    Posted in Obamacare [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to HHS Waivers and the Three I’s of Obamacare

    1. sue mancasola reddin says:

      as a very small business owner facing huge layoffs if the obama plan is implemented in full, i demand the same rights as mcdonalds and the other 29 huge companies that received a waiver.

    2. W.P. KOCH says:


      Congress and the White House should stop squandering the people’s money and use savings to improve quality of basic invested entitlements. Preserve the 2010 tax schedule. Congress should improve basic Medicare. Vote opponents to this “out”. Citizens come first.

      It is time the U.S. reduces its human rites and police activities for the World by lobbying the United Nations, NATO and Interpol to “take on more”. 800 bases in 63 countries across the world should be reduced. Starting with Iraq, continue training for self reliance. After a surge in Afghanistan repeat above and remove corruption starting with monitoring accounts, substituting minerals mining and food crops for drugs. Decrease forces in selected areas such as Germany, Bosnia and Okinawa.

      Cut bloated federal bureaucracy. Combine CDC, EPA and FDA. Combine the FAA, NHTSA and Transportation Department. Combine GAO and CBO. Phase in outsourcing. Departments should eliminate “must spend all”. Return “unused” yearly budget to the treasury.

      Eliminate all 32 CZARS Mr. president. Reduce your 469 member staff which makes nearly 39 million per year! Halt first lady $180,000 air force one vacation trips. Cancel $ 20,000,000 executive order ( HB 1388) to relocate key Hamas members to U.S.

      Contribute to only one of: The World Bank or International Monetary Fund or U.S. Agency for International Development.

      Reduce foreign aid bribery. For example, no aid to oil rich -Iraq. $37 billion and increasing with $8.6 billion of Iraq development funds not accounted for.

      Charge bailed companies (TARP) for their huge executive bonuses at taxpayer expense. Government should sell its shares to recoup for taxpayer. About $154 billion owed.

      Congress should reduce the “stimulus” and monetary expenditures by halting: over budget projects, non relevant earmarks and vote bribery. Do not pay student loans for congressional staff. Please- no private or military jets for congress including Pelosi’s family at taxpayer expense. $2.1 million for Pelosi over 2 years. Congress should set commercial travel cost standards and controls.

      Reduce medical cost by: allowing purchasing from any U.S. corporation, “tort reform”, and reducing “red tape”. Trace funds to local medical groups for expediting billing cost speed, doctor/patient verification and fraud reduction.

      Federal government should enforce existing immigration laws. Complete the improved fence. Entitlements or benefits should be for only citizens. Deport criminal “illegals”. Only workers on a Visa Program qualify for needed medical benefits

      Improve medical expense tax deduction for citizens reaching age 65. Provide corporations tax reduction incentives for hiring with healthcare.

      The savings will improve funding for:” Medicare”, “Medicaid, and “Veteran’s Affairs”.

      Healthcare quality should be at least that for Congress or the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). Additional benefits are: dental coverage, improved visual coverage, no drug “donut hole”, no deductibles and co-pays except for extended skilled level nursing.

      These actions will allow aid for unemployment compensation and Social Security with reinstated cost of living increases.

    3. Neal Clukey says:

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    4. Pingback: Federal Regulations and Small Towns | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

    5. Pingback: Federal Regulations and Small Towns

    6. Pingback: Federal Regulations and Small Towns | The Conservative Papers

    7. Pingback: Side Effects: Number of Waivers Grows As a Result of Obamacare Authors’ Sloppy Handiwork | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

    8. Pingback: Side Effects: Number of Waivers Grows As a Result of Obamacare Authors’ Sloppy Handiwork | The Conservative Papers

    9. Lou, Tucson AZ says:

      As of today, the number of companies receiving waivers from Obamacare mandates is nearing 1,000. Is anybody surprised to learn that the majority of companies recieving waivers are UNIONS?

      It's a bit disingenous to be so vociferously in favor of Obamacare (I'm talking to you Unions) then asking for, and getting, a waiver from having to live under it's mandates.

      Where have I heard of this before? Oh yeah, communist soviet union. The politically connected received the best comforts of life, while everybody else stood in long lines for scraps. It's already starting to happen here. Reagan must be turning over in his grave!

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