The number of companies and organizations who won't have to immediately follow the dictates of rules in the national health insurance reform bill climbed over 1,000 according to HHS.
HHS posted 126 new waivers on Friday, bringing the total to 1,040 organizations that have been granted a one-year exemption from a new coverage requirement included in the healthcare reform law enacted almost a year ago. Waivers have become a hot-button issue for Republicans, eager to expose any vulnerabilities in the reform law.
In order to avoid disruption in the insurance market, the healthcare overhaul gives HHS the power to grant waivers to firms that cannot meet new annual coverage limits in 2011. The waivers have typically been granted to so-called "mini-med" plans that offer limited annual coverage - as low as $2,000 - that would fall short of meeting the new annual coverage floor of $750,000 in 2011.
"We don't want to take away people's health insurance before they have some realistic other choices," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview with The Hill earlier this year.
Republican lawmakers have seized on the waivers as proof that the law they want to see repealed is flawed, and they have accused the administration of giving them waivers as gifts to union allies. The administration has rejected both claims as Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have asked HHS for in-depth details about every waiver decision and request.
Anyone want to make a wager on how "temporary" these waivers are going to be? That's a sucker bet if you have even a rudimentary understanding of how government works. If the rationale for granting the waivers is that the state governments won't be ready until 2014 to offer insurance to consumers, you can bet it will be well past 2014 before they are. Putting government on a timetable is a fool's errand and no one should doubt that Congress will be extending these waivers well past the given date.