Waive it all away

For now, Obamacare is the law of the land—except where the
Department of Health and Human Services decides that it isn’t. That’s a
peculiar statement, but describes the current application of the law in the

As of March 4, HHS has handed out 1,040 waivers to the law.

What is a waiver? Congress writes laws then various
government departments write regulations to implement the law. Sometimes
Congress gives the departments the ability to determine whether the law should
be applied in a specific case.

In the case of Obamacare, HHS has been handing out waivers
to the new consumer protection requirements of the law. Under the new law the
federal government will greatly expand its regulation of how insurance plans spend
premiums, what plans must cover, and whom these plans must cover.

More than 2.6 million Americans have insurance through plans
that have received waivers. Without the permission of HHS, these plans would
have to shut down and, in most cases, employers would have little alternative
but to cancel insurance for their employees.

In some cases, the companies receiving waivers are well
known, such as McDonald’s. However, it is not just big corporations whose plans
can’t continue operating under the new law. The Services Employees
International Union, the fastest growing union in the U.S., has many affiliates
that are currently receiving waivers to the law.

The irony is that the SEIU was one of the law’s biggest
cheerleaders. The union continues to invest money and energy defending
Obamacare, even while it asks for an exemption from the power of the law.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has defended the waivers,
saying that it demonstrates the law’s flexibility. Unfortunately, the law may
be less flexible than the Secretary has made it out to be.

Last week, the House Oversight and Government Reform
Subcommittee on Health Care looked into the waiver process. One of the most
frequently issued waivers covers plans that limit benefits annually or over the
course of a patient’s life. Heritage Foundation health policy expert Edmund
Haislmaier noted that Congress included explicit waiver language in 21 separate
sections of Obamacare. However, the section eliminating benefits limits has no
instructions on waivers. HHS is creating the waiver without the authority of

At this point, HHS has approved almost all of the waiver
requests it has received. Most of the plans receiving waivers are large
organizations, with the means to fill out the paperwork and see the application
through the complex bureaucratic process. Small organizations and businesses
don’t have the same resources, and may have more trouble getting their own

HHS isn’t the only federal agency that can hand out waivers
to Obamacare. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, also has
the authority to waive aspects of the law governing state Medicaid programs.

Congressman Anthony Weiner, D-NY, caused a minor stir last
week when he speculated that New York City should seek a waiver for its
Medicaid program. Weiner has been one of the bill’s most fervent proponents,
but even he thinks that federal government isn’t necessarily the best at
constructing health programs administered at the state and local level.

I chaired a hearing of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee
on Health at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg. Gov. Corbett and his
acting Secretary of Public Welfare Gary Alexander both want similar flexibility
to construct Medicaid programs that work better for patients and don’t break
the state budget.

The real question is: if Obamacare is the solution to our
health care problems, why should it need to be waived so often? Rep. Weiner is
a proponent of the law, while Gov. Corbett opposes it. Will both receive the
same consideration? Congress is going to watch closely to make sure decisions
are not made for political reasons.

Most patients, employers, and state government officials
thought that health care was complex before Obamacare. Increased federal
intervention isn’t making providing care simpler. Instead, we have more rules
and regulations, and a more unpredictable process.

There is one swift way that we can clear up the confusing
waiver process. We can give every American a waiver and repeal Obamacare.

* US Rep. Joe Pitts is
the Republican congressman representing Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional

About U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts

U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts is the Repubican congrerssman representing Pennsylvania's 16th Legislative District.



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One Response to “Waive it all away”

  1. Peter Jesson says:

    Congressman Pitts points to a muddle that he and his fellow travelers have created and then blames those who have to try to deal with the situation.

    US Right wing Republican Voodoo economics from Reagan through Rubin to Bush has created an atmosphere of greed, corruption, lack or regulation, lack of enforcement of regulation (Christopher Cock-Up at the SEC), supposed rating agencies in the pay of the banks and giving the banks the answers they asked for, not reality based rating, and extreme instability that lead to the destruction of one year of World GDP (75 trillion dollars).

    The result is a classic Keynesian liquidity trap – very slow growth, no jobs and therefore very low tax revenues leading to massive deficits – we do not have a government spending problem – we have a destruction of wealth problem generated and perpetuated by Congressman Pitts and his ilk.

    No wonder we have to improvise after this unprecedented right wing generated fiscal calamity – the Federal Reserve is engaged in a series of massive initiatives new to our experience. A large factor here was the lack of a meaningful stimulus package. Mr. Pitts and his friends cut the size of the original proposal and then proceeded to gut the package by insisting on a large tax break component.

    Now they have started to outdo themselves in stupidity (or hypocrisy): they are trying to make up for the Wall Street “Inside Job” by balancing state budgets on the backs of teachers, police and other state employees. All this with the insane cry: “Eliminating all these jobs will lead to vigorous job growth in the rest of the economy” Farcical!!!!

    So too with the waiver requests; in a normal economy there would be no need for waivers – in the economic desert Mr. Pitts has helped create, everybody is struggling. That of course is the real answer to the Pitts question: Obama-care is the solution to our health care problems, why should it need to be waived so often”? In a nutshell: Waivers are needed because of Pitts-style destruction of the world economy.

    Of course we can burrow still further to reveal more of the the intellectual poverty and hypocrisy on Planet Pitts. We have a healthcare “system” that costs three times as much as that of the civilized world; at the same time we rank 45th in life expectancy and 47th in infant mortality. In terms of infant mortality at least 7,000 unnecessary deaths a year are occurring relative to Japan. Mr Pitts, of course, goes around ignoring (or exacerbating this problem) while vocalizing his primitive beliefs about the protection of embryos.

    He says “Federal intervention isn’t making providing care simpler”. This may be true at the moment, but why is it true? Simply because the occupants of Planet Pitts do not want it to get simpler. All the 40+ civilized countries ahead of us in quality of delivery have socialized medicine , very often with Single Payer schemes, – from Sweden through Switzerland, Canada, France, UK, Germany, Australia, Holland, Belgium, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan – the list even includes Cuba. The systems in these countries are simpler than anything we have ever dreamed about and deliver more effective care at a third of the price. Of course Mr Pitts is not interested in facts. He continues to t criticize others for the problem he is creating and to make healthcare more complex to protect the jobs of the multimillionaires who are milking the system – doing the right thing would, of course, crimp his money supply.

    Yes, Mr Pitts, “There is one swift way that we can clear up the confusing waiver process”. We can give every American Single Payer healthcare coverage (including melding in of the gold-plated socialized care members of Congress currently receive, such that their benefits decline to the level of the rest of us).

    However with the people back on Planet Pitts only listening to their rich donors, all we are likely to hear for the foreseeable future are wars of genocide (killing 1 million innocent Iraqis at a cost of $3 trillion to make Iraq a satellite of Iran), laissez-faire economics and massively corrupt financial institutions leading for one boom to a major bust at an increasing frequency and Healthcare delivery that would make the Devil weep.

    Why is the Financial Industry not helping to pay for the disaster they and their conservative friends have helped create while helping the ruling oligarchy shovel wealth for the poor and middle class to “the top 2%? Wall street is back to business as usual, awash in derivatives, egregious salaries and unsound fiscal management.

    Congressman Pitts, why not come out from behind your veil of hypocrisy, try to behave like a man, and honestly address some of the real issues as opposed to your usual stream of vapid pablum?

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