ObamaCare waivers soar past 1,000
posted at 12:15 pm on March 7, 2011 by Ed Morrissey
ObamaCare continues to unravel, both in the courtroom and in its rollout. The Department of Health and Human Services added another 126 waivers on Friday for health plans that don’t meet the new federal requirements, bringing the total number of waivers to over 1,000:
HHS posted 126 new waivers on Friday, bringing the total to 1,040 organizations that have been granted a one-year exemption from a new coverage requirement included in the healthcare reform law enacted almost a year ago. Waivers have become a hot-button issue for Republicans, eager to expose any vulnerabilities in the reform law.
In order to avoid disruption in the insurance market, the healthcare overhaul gives HHS the power to grant waivers to firms that cannot meet new annual coverage limits in 2011. The waivers have typically been granted to so-called “mini-med” plans that offer limited annual coverage — as low as $2,000 — that would fall short of meeting the new annual coverage floor of $750,000 in 2011.
“We don’t want to take away people’s health insurance before they have some realistic other choices,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview with The Hill earlier this year.
But that points to a number of larger problems in ObamaCare overall. First, those mini-med programs that comprise the bulk of the waivers provided low-cost coverage for part-time workers that couldn’t afford any other insurance. Furthermore, the plans actually incentivized cost control better than the comprehensive plans pushed by HHS and ObamaCare that hide price signals from the consumers. That will still be as true in 2012 and 2013 as it is in 2011, but after 2014 taxpayers will end up picking up most of the tab instead of the employers and employees that use mini-med plans now.
More insidiously, no one at HHS has explained how these organizations get waivers. There appears to be no set standard for them. Rep. Fred Upton, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, demanded such an explanation seven weeks ago. None has been forthcoming, but HHS has managed to add over 800 waivers in those seven weeks.
That’s one of the fundamental dangers of ObamaCare. It’s government by whim, not by law. The entire act is filled with the phrase, “The secretary shall determine” or equivalents, meaning that HHS can essentially make up and change rules as they go along. No one knows what to expect from this vast expansion of regulatory power precisely because it’s based on executive whimsy rather than sound and objective law. Apart from all other aspects of ObamaCare, this is the most destructive quality in regard to the rule of law — and Congress had better act to stop it from proceeding for that reason alone.