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Wendy N. Powell Headshot

The Health Care Golden Egg for Some But Not for All

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What's good for the golden goose is good for the gander. Not so much when it comes to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Selective groups will be forgiven this year from the restricted annual limits on the health care benefit provisions. There are now over 1,040 organizations and counting that have been granted exceptions to the annual coverage limits for 2010. How can this be?

According to Health and Human Services (HHS), waivers should create a stop gap measure to prevent employees from losing health insurance or losing their jobs due to the size of the annual limits. OK, that should apply to ALL of us Ms. Sebelius (Secretary of HHS), not just those organizations that have been granted waivers. Does this mean that this Act is prematurely in effect -- OR at least the imposed annual limits? That should have been considered prior to implementation.

These waivers were particularly designed for organizations that have limited annual coverage maximums commonly found in mini-med plans, step down coverage. There are now even states -- yes entire STATES -- that have applied for waivers for 2011. Maine has already been approved. Pending are Kentucky, New Hampshire, Nevada, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, and Florida. Now that makes us really interested. There are reports of other states that are planning to jump on that bandwagon who claim that they would have requested a waiver if they had known they could.

According to Rasmussen Reports
, most survey respondents claim that if waivers are considered, they should be given to everyone.

"60% of voters think it is a bad idea for the administration to give waivers to companies that have announced the law would force them to drop health insurance coverage for their employees. That's up slightly from 56% in October. Only 18% think the waivers are a good idea, and another 21% are not sure. "

President Obama supports the process for states to opt out of provisions of the law. Obama claims that it will provide flexibility and guarantee reform. According to

"States could apply for an exemption from some of the requirements of the law -- including mandates, set to begin in 2014, that require employers to offer coverage and individuals to enroll in a qualified plan -- if they offer an alternative that is at least as effective in expanding coverage."

This is an even broader definition of a waiver and quite certainly throws wrenches and more confusion into this Act.

It makes us wonder what kind of process or criteria they consider for their process for granting waivers at HHS. Look for it; the details of their process do not exist other than basic criteria. Then you need to wait and see what the Secretary thinks about your request. Who has applied for waivers and been denied? There is now an investigation started by the Senate Finance Committee. Try to call the HHS Office. They send you to surf the web and there is no live person to discuss waivers and criteria.

Now, most of us agree that we needed an overhaul of our current health system, but it begs us to wonder exactly what does health care reform really mean... and it makes us question "Why so many opt-outs?" If this law in its current state is good for America, then why are there so many waivers and considerations for entire states to opt out of this major provision? Does this mean that they jumped the gun on certain aspects of the new law? Laws need to apply equally. That was largely the motivation for its very creation.

Many of the very same proponents of the law want out of it themselves. It begs us to wonder why this provision is still in effect. Many labor unions that supported the bill are on the waiver list along with huge corporations. We need to wonder why there is so much attention to waivers that the rest of the taxpaying public doesn't know. What else will come down the exception pike. We've been promised that all citizens will have the same health care options as Congress.

The list of approved waivers can be viewed here.

This ever changing list includes counties, cities, trade unions, insurance companies, police and fire unions, United Federation of Teachers, McDonalds, and Star Wars. Many want to still throw their proverbial hats into this ring.

Perhaps the time is now to re-group and waive this provision for all Americans whether their state or organization or their labor union agrees or not. The credibility of the law is at least in serious question.

It's time to halt or postpone this provision that established these restricted annual limits of the Affordable Care Act. It's the right thing to do.