Getting rid of a political millstone - Obamacare waivers to end

It appears that even the appearance if impropriety on waivers for Obamacare is enough to get the administration to cease granting them.


Political considerations were "absolutely not" part of the decision, said Steve Larsen, head of a section of the Health and Human Services department that oversees President Barack Obama's health care law.

Sure. But you might want to do something about that nose. It appears to be getting bigger by the minute.

Larsen said no new applications for waivers will be considered after Sept. 22. Approvals or renewals received by the deadline will be good through 2013. Starting in 2014, the main coverage provisions of the health care law will take effect, and such waivers will no longer be needed.

The waivers address a provision of the law that phases out annual dollar limits on coverage by health insurance plans. Starting this year, plans could not impose a limit below $750,000. But some plans, offered mainly to low-income workers, currently provide $50,000 a year in coverage, and in certain cases much less.

Those plans would have been forced to close down or jack up premiums significantly, leaving more people uninsured.

The waivers were established to avoid disrupting existing coverage. In 2014, taxpayer-subsidized insurance will be available to most of the people now covered by the affected plans.

What isn't mentioned is that there is a distinct possibility that once the 2012 election is history, the political pressure will be off so that extending the waivers past 2014 might be in the offing.

A GAO report that came out earlier this week claimed no political favoritism in granting waivers. Begging your pardon but asking the GAO to ferret out political shennanigans is like asking the Commerce Department to take charge of the next moon mission. They aren't equipped to make those judgments, largely because the GAO only looks at process. That it's "fair" and that no obvious political enemies were turned down for waivers doesn't mean that administration allies didn't have a reasonable certainty that if they applied, they would get one.

We'll see how accurate the GAO is when 2014 rolls around and some of the waivers are up for renewal.