POLITICS

Consumer Watchdog To Obama Administration: No More Health Reform Waivers

03/29/2011 12:58 pm ET | Updated May 29, 2011

Welcome to "The Watchdog," which will keep a close eye on regulatory agencies and how their actions impact the lives of everyday Americans. Though the rules and regulations they write -- from determining how much arsenic is allowable in your drinking water to whether your favorite TV show can drop the F-bomb in primetime -- affect all of us, their deliberations and the way that lobbyists influence their decisions receive very little coverage. To make sense of these debates, follow the implementation of health care and financial reform and decipher the minutia of the Federal Register, "The Watchdog" is on the case. If you have any tips, send them to marcus@huffingtonpost.com.

03/29/2011 12:17 PM EDT

Watchdog Group To Obama: No More Health Reform Waivers!

A watchdog group is demanding a stop to waivers that would exempt states from health care reform requirements after the Obama administration's recent decision to grant Maine's request for one on behalf of a notorious "junk insurer."

In a letter sent to the Department of Health and Human Services, Consumer Watchdog urged the agency to oppose Anthem’s attempt to evade medical spending rules in New Hampshire, which require insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on health care.

Here's a portion of the letter:

“It is not your job to preserve the status quo for companies as they operate in the market today. The standard for granting a state waiver should be whether consumers will be able to access insurance when the rules are implemented, not whether they will cause a shift in the market as more efficient insurers increase their business and more wasteful insurers clean up their act. The fact that some insurers will have to reduce administrative spending and profits to reach a minimum level of efficiency was the reason Congress enacted the medical loss ratio standard.”

“The New Hampshire waiver application comes down to Anthem: Is Anthem so incapable of providing better health coverage to consumers that it will quit selling insurance or increase premiums to the point that consumers can no longer afford it?” “How could Anthem be reducing administrative spending and profits to move closer to the required loss ratio? Has the company made any efforts to do so? It doesn’t appear that these basic questions were asked.” “New Hampshire’s proposed solution, to preserve the status quo by setting medical loss ratios at 70% for three years, raises another question. What is the incentive for Anthem to move closer to the 80% target if they are allowed to continue business as usual for the next three years?”

03/29/2011 12:04 PM EDT

Feds Issue Guidance For Offshore Deepwater Drilling

Today, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), which oversees offshore drilling, issued additional guidance summarizing and clarifying previously-issued offshore deepwater drilling safety requirements. Essentially, the document outlines its process for reviewing subsea containment plans for deepwater operations -- and does not contain any additional regulatory requirements. As Maritime Reporter notes, it "provides clarifying information to assist the oil and gas industry in complying with existing regulations and guidance."

Tell us what you think in the comments.

03/29/2011 11:56 AM EDT

The Wake-Up Call: GOP Slams Cost Of Dodd-Frank

- EPA punted on its cooling water rule, says Center for Progressive Reform blogger Amy Sinden: "Under the Clean Water Act, this rule is supposed to protect the billions of fish and other aquatic organisms that are killed each day when they are squashed against intake screens or sucked up into cooling water systems at existing power plants and other industrial facilities. Unfortunately, the rule seems aimed more at protecting industry profits than fish."

- GOP lawmakers jumped all over the recent report that regulatory agencies need to hire 2,600 people to comply with Dodd-Frank's new rules (implementation of which could end up costing $2.9 billion, says the GAO).

- Lowe's offered to pay victims of tainted drywall up to $100,000 (and attorneys raked in $2.1 million) after ProPublica's story on the issue.

- NYT's Floyd Norris: "Banks will be forced to retain some risk when they securitize all but the most conservative mortgages under rules that regulators are expected to vote on Tuesday."

- HuffPost's Shahien Nasiripour: "The nation's five largest mortgage firms have saved more than $20 billion since the housing crisis began in 2007 by taking shortcuts in processing troubled borrowers' home loans, according to a confidential presentation prepared for state attorneys general by the nascent consumer bureau inside the Treasury Department."

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