Waiving Healthcare Reform Goodbye- Part Deux

March 9, 2011 in Affordable Health Insurance, Dependants, Employer Sponsored Plans, Grandfathered Health Plans, Group Health Plans, Health Care, Health Care Costs, Health Care Reform, Health Insurance Exchange, Health Insurance Reform, Individual Health Insurance

Waiving Healthcare Reform Goodbye- Part Deux

By Ashley Ahle
March 7, 2011

As reported on March 2nd, President Obama has chosen to allow certain states and companies to opt out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. So far the number of waiver’s granted by the Department of Health and Human Services has reached above 1,000. Though these waivers aren’t exactly the same as the Waiver for State Innovation, they do act in the same way, as a stop gap for companies and firms unable to meet the minimum annual coverage limit for 2011.

Companies eligible for these waivers receive a one year grace period for meeting the $750,000 coverage limit. Providing these waivers minimizes disruption in the health insurance market by allowing people to keep their coverage until realistic options become available. A spokesperson for HHS said that these waivers will ensure that American’s can continue to access needed services with little impact on premiums while the transition to a new marketplace in 2014 is under way.

So far, these waivers are covering about 2.6 million American’s- less than 2% of privately insured individuals. Waivers have been denied to companies, however, that cannot demonstrate that their compliance with the annual limit requirement would significantly increase their premiums or decrease coverage.

An important question being raised right now, is how will granting these waivers affect the credibility of health care reform all together? According to Kaiser Health News columnist John McDonough– a professor at Harvard School of Public Health, these waivers “offer a useful window into the health law’s evolving politics and future bargaining likely to take place.”

Lawmakers opposing health care overhaul are using these waivers as examples of flaws in the reform by saying they make for too many loopholes. While at the same time, they are demanding more “transparency” from HHS regarding why companies are being denied.

In response, HHS has said they have already provided the information requested, to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. However in a letter sent in February the committee had clearly stated that they wanted a defined method of how the HHS was processing waivers, and where in the PPACA did it give HHS the legal right to grant these waivers.

Most companies being granted the one year waiver, are companies offering the lower cost “mini-med” plans. House members in opposition claim that this prevents the 2.6 million Americans covered by these plans from receiving the health insurance coverage that “President Obama believes every American deserves.”

There needs to be an adjustment period for everyone while this policy changing, far reaching health care overhaul takes place. If passed, one cannot expect changes to come immediately. Much like holding the Presidential elections in November but having a change of office in January, this law will need time to meld with the current market. And in time, if granted, these wrinkles may be ironed out in a way that suits us all.

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