If you need evidence of the turmoil created by Barack Obama’s socialist health care overhaul, you could certainly look at the myriad of legal challenges currently working their way through the courts. (A date with the Supreme Court is a certainty.) Or you could look at the massive influx of applications from unions and companies scrambling to get out from under the law’s oppressive requirements by obtaining waivers from the Obama administration.
The Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced an arbitrary September 2011 cutoff for waiver applications, but right up to this deadline these exemptions continue to proliferate. According to The Hill, 106 new waivers were granted in July, bringing the total to 1,472 unions and companies that have been granted exemptions from Obamacare. And yet, the Obama administration continues to be super secretive regarding just how these waiver applications are evaluated.
But here’s one thing we do know. Approximately 50% of the waivers granted cover employees of unions even though union workers represent about 12% of the total workforce according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics!
Why are unions seemingly getting a disproportionate number of waivers? That’s just one of many questions at the center of a Judicial Watch investigation.
Recently, for example, we obtained 3,497 pages of Obamacare documents from the Obama HHS pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed on January 4, 2011.
The records include internal HHS email correspondence and strategic documents, as well as email communications with Medicare and Medicaid, and with unions and companies applying for waivers. The records also include preliminary drafts and multiple versions of the health care plan itself, along with comments from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and other agencies with concerns and suggestions for revising the plan.
The majority of the email communications relate to the waivers granted by HHS exempting companies and unions from the minimum annual cap on the amount payable to an individual in benefits. (Many companies argue these caps will force them to either drop coverage or raise premiums.) The Obamacare waivers enable these companies and unions to keep their existing plans in place until January 1, 2014, when covered expenses will no longer be limited by a cap. (Just wait and see the chaos that occurs should Obamacare somehow withstand judicial scrutiny and become the law of the land.)
In a general sense, Judicial Watch simply wants to know the criteria by which a company or union is granted one of these waivers. We want to know who got them and who didn’t. We want to know what conditions mandate approval and which mandate rejection. But HHS is mum on these questions. This first batch of 3,500 pages is, believe it or not, just the tip of the iceberg of the thousands of other documents the “transparent” Obama administration continues to withhold from us in contemptuous violation of the Freedom of Information Act.
Which is an especially troubling problem considering the fact that Big Labor seems to be getting big favors from HHS in the form of these waivers.
You may recall Judicial Watch previously obtained documents from HHS regarding closed-door health care meetings between Big Labor and Vice President Joe Biden, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and then-Obamacare Czar Nancy-Ann Min DeParle.
The documents include a list of all of the labor union leaders who attended a meeting with President Obama, along with brief biographical information on each participant. The list included: Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO; Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union; and Jim Hoffa, President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, among other Big Labor leaders.
What assurances did the Obama administration give to labor leaders in exchange for their support of the plan? The documents we previously uncovered suggest that the key provisions of the Obamacare law were written solely to address the concerns of union interests. (And now we see Big Labor getting 50% of the waiver haul.)
Speaking over Labor Day Weekend, at a rally for organized labor attended by Barack Obama, Hoffa attacked the Tea Party and urged attendees to get out the vote for Democrats: “President Obama, this is your army…Everybody here has got to vote. If we go back and we keep the eye on the prize, let’s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to America where we belong.”
So the unions appear to be getting what they want, a reprieve from Obamacare. And the Obama campaign is getting what it wants, union cash and support. And where does this leave the rest of America? In the dark. The Obama administration continues to push forward with Obamacare under a veil of secrecy, especially the details of these Obamacare waivers.
Waiving the law for 3.4 million Americans is unfair and an affront to the rule of law. And it seems corrupt when political supporters in Big Labor are getting a disproportionate number of waivers from Obamacare. Unions helped write Obamacare and then get exempted from it! And now Big Labor is paying back these waiver favors with campaign support for Barack Obama. Judicial Watch is committed to bringing as much transparency as possible to the thoroughly corrupt Obamacare, especially this ongoing abuse of the “waiver” process.