Obama Administration To Halt Health Reform Law Waivers in Sept.
On Friday, the Obama administration announced that after Sept. 22 HHS will not accept applications for waivers exempting certain coverage-level mandates in the federal health reform law, the New York Times reports.
Steve Larsen, director of the federal Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, said employers and labor unions can seek new waivers or extensions of current waivers until that date.
Thus far, the administration has granted waivers to 1,433 health plans that cover 3.2 million U.S. residents (Pear, New York Times, 6/17). The waivers have been granted to employers that offer low-cost health plans, or "mini-med" plans, and provide a one-year exemption from a provision in the reform law that prohibits caps on health benefits.
Republicans have criticized the waivers, arguing that they are either concessions for Democratic allies or evidence that the reform law does not work. However, a recent Government Accountability Office report found that HHS has been granting the waivers in a "fair and unbiased manner" (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 6/14).
Any waivers granted or renewed by September will run through 2013, the Times reports. Under the reform law, mini-med plans will be prohibited in 2014, when individuals and small businesses will be able to purchase more comprehensive coverage through state-based insurance exchanges.
Announcement Could Minimize Debate; GOP Continues Criticisms
The Times notes that the announcement could minimize debate over waivers in the upcoming election (New York Times, 6/17).
However, Larsen said the administration did not select the September deadline for political reasons. He said, "This was a course we mapped out a year ago" (DoBias, Politico, 6/17). According to Larsen, "[T]he vast majority of plans that would need a waiver â¦ are the ones that would have applied and did apply this year" (Adamy, Wall Street Journal, 6/18).
Still, critics have continued to attack the waivers, despite the announcement.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said, "The fact is that Americans need waivers from the president's law because it causes health premiums to go up -- not down" (Politico, 6/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.