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  • House Hearing Reveals the Truth About the Obamacare Waivers

    17 June 2009 - Washington, DC - Senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee begins mark-up consideration on the Kennedy Health Care bill. The bill which may cost over a trillion dollars is being debated by both sides of the Senate committee.

    To date, over 1,000 companies, covering nearly 2.4 million employees, have been granted waivers to escape the burdensome requirements of Obamacare. The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Health Care, the District of Columbia, Census and the National Archives held a hearing this week to further examine the transparency and fairness of the waiver process.

    Obamacare forbids insurers from placing annual and lifetime limits on health plans. These “consumer protections” have endangered the limited coverage plans that some employers currently offer. Unable to provide more comprehensive coverage, those employers would be forced to drop coverage altogether if they abide by the new law. To avoid this consequence of the new law, employers are flocking to secure the waivers offered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to keep their employees covered.

    At the hearing, Steven Larson, Deputy Administrator and Director for the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, argued that waivers act as a bridge from now until 2014, when Obamacare will be fully implemented. Larson said the waivers were always on the table to phase out mini-med plans.

    But Heritage Senior Research Fellow Ed Haislmaier pointed to 21 different sections in the new law that authorize the HHS Secretary to provide waivers for specific purposes—and authority to grant waivers for annual and lifetime limits was not among them. In his testimony, Haislmaier argued, “HHS has exceeded its statutory authority in creating this waiver process. The statute does not explicitly grant HHS authority to waive the application of this provision.”

    It’s simple, really: If Congress intended to institute a waiver process for this particular provision of Obamacare, they would have included it in the legislation. It seems clear, then, that Congress never intended to award waivers for this provision of the law. In doing so, HHS has overstepped its authority.

    The hearing also focused on transparency and fairness in the process of granting waivers. While other witnesses said that the waiver process is fair and transparent, Haislmaier argued that the process of applying for a waiver invites the opportunity for favoritism because large corporations and unions can afford to go through the waiver process, unlike smaller businesses that may not have the money or time to apply for a waiver.

    Scott Wold, an employee benefits attorney in Minnesota, has had hands-on experience working with employers applying for waivers from the annual limit restrictions. In his testimony, Wold stated that he “encountered several issues or difficulties with the process,” particularly with regard to eligibility for health reimbursement accounts (HRA), a type of consumer-directed health plan. Wold believes that the confusion surrounding HRA eligibility and the nebulous application process has “likely resulted in many sponsors of HRAs not requesting a waiver.”

    Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, further questioned the fairness of the application process. He noted that HHS bureaucrats know exactly what company’s application they are reviewing and whether they are union plans. This has arguably led to the disproportional acceptance of waiver application from large corporations and unions. Haislmaier further emphasized that the use of a waiver process has led to a system that is based not on “the rule of law” but rather on “the rule of ‘who you know.’”

    Due to the lack of transparency and fairness associated with the waiver application process, Haislmaier urged Congress to instruct HHS to eliminate the waiver program. He also said, “Congress should consider whether or not it will change or further clarify the statutory language of this provision of [Obamacare], in the context of its broader debates over the future of this legislation in general and its numerous specific provisions.”

    This post was co-authored by Amanda Rae Kronquist and Raul Tamez.

    Posted in Obamacare [slideshow_deploy]

    35 Responses to House Hearing Reveals the Truth About the Obamacare Waivers

    1. Yankee says:

      It's somewhat funny how for all of their length these omnibus bills are so cryptic… Among the hallmarks of poor legislation are exceptions and arbitrary enforcement.

    2. karenshaw says:

      I have posted this already here before You guys should stop complaining because, one the health care we have now isn't as good as it was supposed to be. also the law has just been signed so give it some time. so if u want to say u have the right to choose tell that to ur congress men or state official. If you do not have insurance and need one You can find full medical coverage at the lowest price check search online for "Wise Medical Insurance" If you have health insurance and do not care about cost just be happy about it and believe me you are not going to loose anything!

    3. Jeff W says:

      karenshaw, I wish I shared your faith in our government. You need to get educated and quit taking Obama's word as fact.

    4. NCT, Colorado says:

      The waiver process just underscores that Obamacare is not about healthcare at all – it is about polticial control of a major part of our economy.

    5. Roger TN says:

      Sooo, what does the CBO think these waivers and modifications to the Obamacare Plan dollar effects are? In my humble opinion, anyone that supported this total infringement of our Constitutional Rights have lost any claim for a waiver. However, that is not to be. Most of those that are given the waivers were supporters and will cost the rest of of a bundle in taxes.

    6. Pragmatic in Texas says:

      Karenshaw@1:04am – You must be a millionaire. Otherwise why dismiss concerns of healthcare premiums skyrocketing? Are you living on a fixed income? How do you think those that do feel about their premiums going up to the point they can't afford insurance anymore?

      The end goal is socialized medicine where nobody has any choice, and you wait 3 years for a hip replacement. If this is the type of medicine you want, go live in the U.K. You would be happy there.

    7. Shawn-Madison, WI says:

      @karenshaw – People are complaining about Obamacare because the costs associated with implementing and maintaining this program are outrageous. Where will the money come from to keep this albatross afloat? Taxes. This was just another instance of a Liberal Democrat trying to increase the size and scope of government. When he should have been focusing on jobs and the economy, he instead decided to try to make a name for himself. Unfortunately for all of us, the name he made for himself is Jimmy Carter Jr.

    8. moreorless, rio ranc says:

      Karen should not be up at 1 am. I have no idea what she is talking about!

    9. R Holland, Chandler, says:

      Yeah Karenshaw, and if you believe in what you are saying, I have a bridge to Hawaii to sell you.

    10. Larry, Austin TX says:

      Seems the passage of time will only further clarify how deeply flawed (not to mention unconstitutional) Obamacare is.

      If Obamacare is so wonderful why do so many special interests who supported it (or anyone) now need waivers from it?

    11. Stirling, Pennsylvan says:

      The Waivers just go back to the Presidents promise for a "Single Payer System," that might not happen right away (video at SEIU Meeting) , but would take 10-15 years to achive. Waivers just accelerate the end goal, and apease the base, while punishing the average person who has no lobyist. Waivers are obviously unconstitutional due to penalizing one group to the benefit of annother.

    12. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      So what are we to do with yet another case of this administration exceeding its Constitutional and legal authority? Who else is desensitized to their lawlessness? They have already fired an IG, ignored rulings that overturned drilling moratoria and Obamacare in general, not prosecuted legitimate Voting Rights Act violators and stopped defending DOMA, all with little consequence, so why would they, in order to protect and advance their political agenda, not issue waivers outside of their intended purposes? Who is stopping them?

    13. Pingback: How it affects you « ObamaCare 411

    14. Pingback: Favoritism.. | Citizens to Repeal Obamacare

    15. Bobbie says:

      karenshaw, many names same suggestion?

      You say: one the health care we have now isn’t as good as it was supposed to be?

      Me say: so why would you put faith in the government now, when for years they've claimed they would make it better? Insurance wasn't even the initial proposal of Obama's plan, it was health care. Insurance is a cost entity that is a privilege not a right and either is health care. It's a personal responsibility.

      There's dangerous game playing and entrapments regarding this take over and it needs immediate repeal to stop the take-over!

    16. Norma in Nebraska says:

      Mike – you make a great point. BUT here is the problem: as long as the President and the Dems control 2/3 of power in our government, there will be no accountability. In order to question the President and rein him in, the conservatives need to take at least the Senate in 2012. And I['m not so sure that the conservatives we are electing have the collective backbone to do the job properly.

      This administration takes every single aspect of their positions to the nth degree: we are more PERMANENT czars than any other time in history; the President has taken liberties with his power to the extreme because he is following a precedent set by one of the former Presidents, no matter how slight. They are taking advantage of every single over-reach in our history. And then, like now, NO ONE stood up and said, "No, Mr. President, you cannot do that because it is beyond your jurisdiction." Instead we have overlooked these breaches and now we are stuck with the massive abomination that has taken over the "people's house" in Washington.

      How do you impeach a President who is just adding on to the enumerated powers used by Presidents before him?

    17. Wes in cincy says:

      I thought the so-called mandate was there to make everybody share the load.

      It seems to me that by giving out waivers that they are destroying their reason

      for having a mandate. With 1000 waivers it is obvious that everybody is not going to share the load. We need to stop expecting the government to come up with

      anything that makes sense. It's amazing that the government showed us how

      they could track madcow disease right down to the very barn the cow lived in,

      but they can't run the post office and they even lose laptops that have top secret

      information in them. It's obvious that the bigger the government gets, the sloppier it gets. It's time to cut it down to size.

    18. William D. Hoy Color says:

      HHS doesn't know what's in the bill. I doubt that Obama does.

    19. C Taylor says:

      WOW! Thank you conservatives who responded to this article! I hope you are Tea Party Patriots, because that movement is, in my humble opinion, the ONLY thing standing between our government and disaster for America. In this political environment numbers are the crucial factor–as indicated in the election of 2010. The election of 2012 will be the turning point if we come together based on the principles on which this country was founded. We have gotten so far away from those principles . . . and we all have played a part in that by not being active citizens and holding our elected officials accountable or making therm operate with transparency. It's not too late, although it will be a very difficult battle. Are you up for it? Oh, Karenshaw, you are welcome to join us, but please keep in step or you might get trampled–metaphorically speaking, of course.

    20. Diana Brown, Illinoi says:

      The healthcare law is unconstitutional!!! period and end of subject. Obama does not care about the rule of law and he certainly is no fan of our Constitution. He needs to be relieved of duty bacause of his lack of good policies for the good of the American People. He truly wants to destroy America as we know it and we cannot allow him to do this. He needs to be a one term president!!!! Keep up the pressure Heritage and our Tea Parties!!!! God help our country as the Founders would be turning in their graves if they could see what these lousy Progressives and Socialists have done!!!!!

    21. Larry, Tennessee says:

      What, they didn't realize the bill didn't cover waivers on limits? Didn't they read tha bill before signing it? RAOTFLMAO

    22. NeoConVet says:

      ObaMao and his new revolutionairy buddy in Brazil have no clue and are unable to articulate the truth. Their goal is clear, to manage the rapid deciline of the US and of our fiscal future.

    23. Nancy Stefani, Calif says:

      All the evidence we need that the government handling all your health care needs is not a good idea, is in Medicare. Are not these same proponents of this the same group that have been in charge of Medicare and now tell us the program is in deep trouble?

    24. Montie Arizona says:

      I wonder if the radio personality who stated, Liberalism is a mental disorder may have been right. It seems to me that the liberals are NOT able to process information very well. Even when faced with irrefutable evidence a child could process and understand they ignore it and try to divert attention to anything BUT the truth. It does not matter if the lie is so outlandish a 5 year old would not believe it.

      They seem to believe if the lie is repeated enough it will become the truth.

    25. AZ Don says:


      From what you say I guess you went to the “we have to pass it to find out what’s in it” school. So our congressmen/women passed it before they read it and know nothing about what is in it. And you think we should wait and see. We already know there is tremendous new regulations in it to take away many of our liberties.

      Furthermore, I do share you confidence that Obama, let alone the rest of congress, is trustworthy. We all know Obama is a compulsive liar. Allow me to remind you “a man is only as good as his word, if his word is no good he is no good.” That you can take to the bank!!

    26. AZ Don says:

      If you are for the “affordable healthcare bill” (Obamacare), you are just as bad as the dummies, in congress, who voted blindly for passage. Or if you know everything that’s in it would you share it with the rest of us. Because we do not know what’s in it. Have you read and comprehend everything in it, if not I have a question for you: Do you think it is stupid to agree to something when you do know what it is you are agreeing to?

    27. Doug Graham, Provo, says:

      Obamacare has nothing to do with providing care to people. It's nothing less than an attempt to gain control over us as a people. It is one of several efforts underway to undermine personal freedom and liberty….always in the name of goodness, fairness, equity, justice, etc. Even now, the bureaucrats are playing favorites with the extension of waivers from the ill effects of Obamacare. Ultimately, they will pull back these waivers from even those who are being placated by these waivers which are temporary. These ideologues do not care about the rule of law unless it serves their purposes. People are just pawns and serfs to be used to promote their agenda which ultimately is the total centralization of all decisions concerning the distribution of goods, services, favors, work, and justice (their flavor by the way). Hope this helps.

    28. Ray, Hampton VA says:

      Karenshaw apparently does not understand (or is in a funk as most liberals always are) Obamacare was never about healthcare! It was always about control. If you, Karenshaw, do not like being in a country with the best quality of healthcare on the planet, then go to Canada or England. Why do you think people from all over the world come here for medical treatments? Are there people without health insurance? Absolutely! Is that a right guaranteed by the constitution? Absolutely not! And, yet, no one in this country has to go without some form of medical care. There is no hospital who can refuse giving you emergency care if you need it. My advice to you, Karenshaw, is to come out of the funk, open your eyes and start reading something besides the New York Times or the Washington Post. Or watch something other than CNN/ABC/NBC/CBS/MSNBC. Watch Fox News.

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