Great news: HHS adds 1,328,381 waivers to ObamaCare

posted at 1:36 pm on March 9, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Well, give or take a few thousand; that’s as accurate as the 2010 Census data for Maine.  The entire state got itself a waiver from the core provisions of ObamaCare, which requires insurers to spend 80% of their premiums directly on provider care or offer rebates for the difference.  Maine requested and received a pass on the law so that insurers in the state could continue to operate at the 65% level:

Maine health insurers are getting a temporary waiver from the health reform law’s requirement that they spend at least 80 percent of premiums on care, federal regulators decided Tuesday. …

Specifically, HHS points out that three insurers make up the bulk of Maine’s individual insurance market: Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Maine (49 percent), MEGA Life and Health Insurance Company (37 percent) and HPHC Insurance Company (13 percent). MEGA had told Maine during preliminary discussions that it “would probably need to withdraw from this market if the minimum loss ratio requirement were increased.”

Maine won’t be alone in the waiver business, either.  New Hampshire, Nebraska, and Kentucky all have applied for waivers, too.  Combined, that would add 3,912,691 waivers to the list — since exempting an entire state from the requirements means every resident gets a pass.

This prompts plenty of questions, chief among them the 80% figure itself.  How exactly did Congress arrive at that figure?  In the case of Maine, this is doubly ironic, because Maine has its own version of ObamaCare already, complete with a “public option,” DirigoChoice.  Maine already has universal-coverage mandates, level or “community pricing” for premiums, and bars on pre-existing coverage denials.  How did that work out in Maine?  Poorly.  The average monthly premium for a single male at 30 years of age in 2009 was $762, more than triple what it was in neighboring New Hampshire.  The promised “savings” from this universal program never materialized, and the DirigoChoice plan had to be rationed and additional taxes imposed.

If Maine’s own ObamaCare precursor had worked to achieve cost control, then why does the state ration entry into its public option?  Furthermore, if such a program really does control cost and overhead, then why can’t the state’s insurers meet the arbitrary 80% threshold set by Congress without having to shut down its business?

The waivers may as well encompass the entire United States, since these economic problems will arise wherever ObamaCare is attempted.  Better yet, instead of issuing 300 million waivers, why don’t we scrap the program and start over from scratch — this time with actual reform aimed at eliminating third-party payer interventions rather than expanding them?


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