GAO Report: ObamaCare Waivers Issued to Prevent Premium Increases Caused By Health Law's Mandates


Waiver? I don't even know her!

For months, it's been unclear how the Obama administration's Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO)—the new bureaucracy set up to regulate health insurance under ObamaCare—was deciding whether to hand out waivers to businesses and unions seeking exemptions from some of the law's requirements. Now, thanks to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), we have a somewhat better idea: The administration was handing out waivers in order to prevent large health insurance premium hikes that last year's health care would have otherwise caused.

According to the GAO, which prepared its report with the help and guidance of CCIIO, the Obama administration's new insurance regulators "granted waivers on the basis of an application's projected significant increase in premiums or significant reduction in access to health care benefits." It's not a bright-line test, however; there's still a discretionary element. As the report's authors explain, "officials told us that they could not exclusively rely on specific numerical criteria to define a significant increase in premiums or a significant decrease in access to benefits, because applicant characteristics and circumstances varied widely." So the process is still not fully transparent.

But what's most important about the report is how it reveals, yet again, that the folks running the ObamaCare show are aware of the effects the law will have on the price of insurance. Like the Obama administration's decision to grant the state of Maine a waiver from ObamaCare's medical loss ratio requirement, the GAO's description of the waiver process is about as straightforward an admission as anyone is likely to get fulfilling ObamaCare's new insurance requirements does indeed drive up premium prices and/or reduce health insurance benefits.

Now, the administration would likely contest that argument as unfair. After all, they did issue waivers to businesses and union groups where the premium hikes or benefit losses were expected to be largest. But if anything, the waiver process simply shows that the Obama administration knows that, despite all of the president's claims about bringing down the cost of both care and insurance premiums, the legislation, as passed, will make health insurance more expensive for a very large number of individuals—hence the issuance of 1,347 waivers covering more than 3 million people.

The result is an inherently unfair system in which some businesses and unions have to obey the rules and some don't, and the regulators get to decide who falls into which category. I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again: If it's so clear that the provisions in question aren't working for so many people, why not just grant everyone waivers by ditching those requirements entirely?