Remember when then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi was telling us they had to pass the health care law so we could know what’s in it? Later she said that as people got to know what was in the health care law they’d embrace it. Well she was right on one of those two points: it passed and now they know what’s in it, but they aren’t embracing it.
Ex-Speaker Pelosi’s district in San Francisco is the big winner in the most recent health care waivers released by the Obama administration. More than 36 businesses in her district alone were given exemptions from the law in April alone. Not surprisingly most were restaurants and cafes, however several top-tier hotels were included as well. Pelosi’s district accounted for approximately 20 percent of the waivers granted in the past month.
Ms. Pelosi is remaining mum on the waivers, though with 1 out of every 5 waivers being issued to businesses in her district (1 out of 235 congressional districts) one has to wonder. The Department of Health and Human Services claims that waivers are issued to businesses based on need to “avoid a large increase in premiums or a significant decrease in access to coverage,” according to a statement provided to Fox News.
If Obamacare was such a positive move towards providing the Mount Olympus of liberal thinking, universal care, why are so many businesses, 1,372 nationwide, needing to opt-out? Pelosi was the most vocal supporter of the law and yet her own district can’t stomach the medicine without an antidote.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, received a partial exemption from a provision in the law requiring companies to spend at least 80 percent of premium money on medical care and related expenses. HHS will now allow Nevada to keep that rate at 75 percent in 2011 to avoid health insurance companies from withdrawing from Nevada. Pesky unintended consequences seem to be cropping up everywhere.
The argument made by Democrats was that their health care law would increase coverage by more than 10 million individuals and yet waivers issued to this point affect over 3 million people. We’re only a year into this bill and nearly 1/3 of the their target has already fallen off the screen. Health insurance premiums nationwide have been subject to dramatic increases already, but we could find ourselves in a position where the additional insured could shrink back to pre-Obamacare levels while those already covered see sky-rocketing rates.
If you believe the rhetoric that was spewed about Capitol Hill the last two years, you would believe that covering the uninsured was the top priority. However as things now stand, waivers are having to be issued left and right to keep service workers from losing the coverage their employers were already providing. Could it be that when all is said and done that more people will lose their insurance than will be picked up by Obamacare. Wouldn’t it be a sad statement if all we managed to do was to increase insurance premiums while forcing millions to drop off insurance rolls because their employers could not afford the strictures of Obamacare?
Somewhere lost in the discussion of the last few years was the objective to stem the tide of soaring health care costs. Obamacare does nothing to address the cost of providing health care, unless you’re to believe that providing coverage to those that don’t have it will achieve that result, however the waivers tend to belie that argument.
There are those, myself being one, who believe the intent of Obamacare was to eventually force every employer to withdraw coverage as it became too costly and administratively unbearable. If you want government health insurance, provided as an entitlement, what better way to accomplish your goal that to create a crisis that requires government to step in?
Representative Fred Upton, R-Mich., Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement that the waivers are a “tacit admission that the health care law is fundamentally flawed. Despite the President’s promise, it appears that just because you like your health care plan does not mean that the administration will allow you to keep it.”
Nevada Senator Dean Heller said the Nevada waiver demonstrates the law’s fatal flaws. “It is clear that the unique health care needs of individual states were not taken into consideration, and this is why Obamacare will not work for Nevada.”
If you believe the propaganda being offered by HHS, the waivers are not intended to be permanent. The waivers granted to the San Francisco businesses last for one year at a time, and are meant to exempt certain companies from rules that restrict annual benefit limits. For 2011, the law prohibits most health plans from setting an annual benefit limit lower than $750,000 per individual policyholder. The law would eventually end annual limits, but in the meantime allows companies to apply for a waiver if they still have limits lower than the law allows. Health insurance companies use annual benefit limits to control their exposure. While this may sound like a crude way to control costs, limits are an effective way to control unnecessary tests and procedures. Does someone with a serious need get caught up in this battle legitimately and end up being hurt? Yes, but there are other solutions, such as a fund to cover overages for the few that have valid need to exceed the annual limit. Opening up an unlimited annual benefit is an invitation for less scrupulous individuals within the health care industry to game the system.
The White House is arguing that waivers will not exist past 2014 and are a bridging mechanism, and yet fewer than 100 waivers have been denied to this point. Waivers intended to “protect coverage for these workers,” could very well have to extend beyond 2014 to avoid a complete health insurance / employer melt-down. Which brings me back to an earlier point, and that’s whether we’re building towards a government directed crisis to achieve an ends.
If there was a need for a “bridge” from 2010 to 2014, why wasn’t that in the original bill? Why weren’t exemptions planned and a staging of various sectors of economy over time? Certainly most of what were seeing was very predictable. With the woman who was in charge of the House seeing the greatest benefit from the latest round of waivers it’s not a stretch to opine that Washington intentionally created a new benefit for Congress to hand out to a select few. Political paybacks in Washington? Who could imagine such a thing?