In an unannounced Friday news dump, the Department of Health and Human Services quietly posted newly accepted waivers to 221 businesses and two entire states exempting them from damaging provisions of ObamaCare, bringing the grand waiver total to seven entire states and 1,372 businesses. I have one simple question for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: Where’s MY Waiver?
There’s a good argument that every American is about to be harmed by ObamaCare, whether through the $500 billion in tax increases, the $500 billion in Medicare cuts, the individual mandate forcing citizens to purchase health insurance, the myriad of one-size-fits-all regulations, and the mountainous debt it creates. In the land of equal protection under the law, shouldn’t we all be equally protected from ObamaCare’s harm?
Of course, the only way to guarantee that no harm is done is by repealing the law in its entirety, which can transpire at the earliest in 2013 if Republicans take back the Presidency and the Senate. In the meantime, Secretary Sebelius has a moral responsibility to treat us all equally with regards to the two areas in which she is currently granting waivers: the medical loss ratio requirement and the limited benefit restrictions.
To date, she has utterly failed to do so.
Sebelius has already denied waivers to 79 businesses from the limited benefit restrictions that rendered illegal the mini-med plans they formerly offered employees. Worse, she arbitrarily decided not to allow individuals and families to apply for these same waivers. Folks that were only able to afford mini-med plans suddenly found them illegal and unlike businesses and states, have no recourse available.
The arbitrariness continues when one looks at who exactly have been the beneficiaries of the waivers. While union employees only make up 11.9% of American workers, 50.26% of workers benefiting from waivers are unionized, over four times their share of the workforce!
Worth noting is the incredible irony that the very same unions that were ObamaCare’s greatest advocates are now seeking waivers from it. I guess that’s called getting full value for their $120 million in campaign support for Democrats between 2008 and 2010.
Although political favoritism in the waiver process has not yet been directly proven, Secretary Sebelius’ case is not helped by her refusal to provide all relevant documents to Congress regarding how her Departments considered specific waiver requests.
However, the ultimate ridicule to Sebelius’ arbitrary waiver process is the reality that it may in-and-of-itself be illegal. Edmund F. Haislmaier of the Heritage Foundation recently testified before the House Oversight Committee that nowhere in ObamaCare is the Secretary given the power to issue waivers from the limited benefit restrictions.
In fact, the HHS Secretary is specifically granted the waiver power for twenty-one other areas of the law, increasing the likelihood that Congress’ intent wasn’t to grant the waiver power to areas in which it didn’t specify.
This entire fiasco has further deteriorated the public’s historically low trust in government and its ability to act evenhandedly. Sebelius should end the episode and rid herself of all charges of arbitrariness and political favoritism by either granting a means to obtain a waiver by every American or getting out of the waiver business entirely.
Colin Hanna is the President of Let Freedom Ring, whose initiative www.WheresMYWaiver.com is lobbying for individuals to also be eligible for ObamaCare waivers.