Nearly 800 unions and companies are now exempt from the new health care law as a result of being granted a waiver by Health and Human Services. The Senate Health, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a hearing on Thursday morning and questioned HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the impact of the new health care law.
Senator John McCain, Arizona Republican, challenged Secretary Sebelius about the temporary nature of granting of waivers to companies.
SEC. SEBELIUS: The goal of the law in the area of annual limit of the benefits granted our department with the discretion to look at situations which would cause not only market disruption but a dramatic increase in premiums, and what we have done on a case-by-case basis is receive information particularly about the so-called mini med plans that are employer-based coverage throughout the country and grant waivers where the employer indicated that there would be…
SEN.MCCAIN: I understand how it works. I’m asking why you wouldn’t want to make them permanent. I’d appreciate it if you’d keep your answer short.
SEC. SEBELIUS: Why we wouldn’t want to make it permanent? We’re taking a look at the market place, and they have assured us that they can gradually phase into the annual limit.
SEN. MCCAIN: They’ve assured you of that?
SEC. SEBELIUS: That’s my understanding. Yes sir.
Listen to McCain and Sebelius here.
Essentially, the secretary of health and human services is not entirely confident of the new health care law. The waivers are just another mechanism of temporarily muzzling companies and unions about the health care law everyone else is forced into.
I later asked Secretary Sebelius about the hundreds of waivers that HHS granted to unions like the SEIU and the concerns that the administration was granting waivers to allies of the White House.
“I think there have been 90 plus percent waivers that have been applied for and that have been granted,” Ms. Sebelius replied. “They are basically employer based plans that have difficulty in meeting the $750,000 annual limit benefit, and I think nothing could be further from the truth. It has people come in. If they meet the guidelines, waivers have been granted.”
Listen to Sec. Sebelius here
HHS is setting itself up for quite a paradox here. In one instance it is arguing that without the implementation of the health care law, the cost of health care and premiums will go up. However, the question remains, though. If the new health care act is so great why are companies applying for the HHS exemption waivers to avoid the mandate? And more importantly, if companies should be so excited about the health care law, why is HHS granting waivers to “90-plus” who apply for them?