The Obama administration has granted waivers or adjustments to five states and more than 1,000 unions, companies, and other organizations representing nearly 3 million people who no longer have to comply with healthcare-reform requirements — for now.
That news comes despite two looming congressional investigations into whether politics influences who received a waiver — what one GOP congressman is calling “crony care.”
Republicans allege that the administration has refused to state its basis for either accepting or refusing claims, suggesting that politics is a factor as bureaucrats pick winners and losers. Moreover, they’re asking why so many entities are rushing to avoid a law that was intended to streamline healthcare services and reduce costs.
On Tuesday, federal regulators announced that Maine will receive an “adjustment,” so its insurance companies will not have to prove that they spend 80 percent of premiums on medical services, as required in the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act.
Instead, the state’s “loss-ratio threshold” needs to reach only 65 percent. The adjustment will last for three years but could be extended.
That means Maine now joins Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, and Tennessee as states that have been exempt from some elements of Obamacare, at least for the time being.
In addition to the states, those receiving waivers include major firms such as McDonald’s and Darden Restaurants, which have indicated that they probably would stop offering employee “mini-med” policies if they had to comply with Obamacare’s requirements.
But at least 44 of the waivers were granted to unions such as the Service Employees International Union, which contributed heavily to Democrats and the Obama campaign.
Four-term Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, tells Newsmax that the waivers expose the Affordable Care Act as really “crony care.”
“Crony care means they’re going to ram down government health on everybody, except for those who are close enough, and cronies with the administration, so they get to avoid that situation,” Gohmert tells Newsmax.
As an example, he says, members of Congress and staff were specifically written out of the measure so they would not be subject to burdensome Obamacare requirements.
“It just seems to be very clear that those who are close and the friends of the administration, they will give you a pass and you won’t be under all the provisions of this administration’s fiasco,” Gohmert says. “The administration realizes that this bill is a disaster, and that’s why they’re letting their closest friends out from under the toughest parts.
“The fact that they would give waivers to the states, to senators, to people that have done them a favor, tells you, ‘We know this is bad, that’s why we’re giving our best friends a pass.’
“Because think about it,” he adds, “if this Obamacare was really a great thing for everybody, then Obama’s friends would all be lined up and saying, ‘We don’t want waivers, we want the whole thing.’ And instead, the Obama friends are lining up saying, ‘Let us out from under this. Please, we’re your friends. Don’t make us have to live with this.’”
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announced it would be investigating why waiver requests from some organizations have been denied, while others have been approved.
Committee leaders wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services, stating: “The current lack of transparency lends credence to the perception that bureaucrats are picking winners and losers in a politicized environment where the winners are favored constituencies of the administration.”
In January, the House Energy and Commerce Committee was the first to announce it would investigate the waivers, which provide temporary relief to companies adversely affected by the massive healthcare reform legislation.
Administration officials say the adjustments and waivers are simply a way to ease the implication of a complex bill whose benefits will become increasingly apparent over time.
Democratic pollster and Fox News commentator Doug Schoen tells Newsmax the waivers have become essential to keeping healthcare reform on a politically palatable glide path.
“All the waivers give Obama an out,” Schoen tells Newsmax. “They’re like a valve releasing steam from a pressure cooker. The administration needs the waivers to hold the support of moderates and independents.”