-- United Food and Commercial Workers Local 455 (Maximus)
-- United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1262
-- Musicians Health Fund Local 802
-- Hospitality Benefit Fund Local 17
-- Transport Workers Union
-- United Federation of Teachers Welfare Fund
-- International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (AFL-CIO)
-- Plus two organizations that appear to be chapters of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA)
Several of these labor organizations did not respond to requests for comment about their waivers. But Jay Blumenthal, financial vice president of the Local 802 Musicians Health Fund in New York, did explain to me: "We got grandfathered in" (his description for getting a pass) because "things were moving so fast" and "we need time now to prepare for the law." In other words: Policy cramdowns first, political fixes later. A supporter of Obamacare, Blumenthal told me he "sees no irony, no," in unions supporting the very health care "reform" from which they are now seeking relief.
Chris Rodriguez, director of human resources at Fowler Packing Company in California's San Joaquin Valley, sees things a little differently. Fowler pursued an HHS waiver because their low-wage agricultural workers would have lost the basic coverage his company has voluntarily offered for years. "We take care of our employees, and we warned (health care officials that) if they imposed this, large numbers of workers would lose access to affordable coverage," he told me. Rodriguez said he's grateful the firm won a waiver, but he did not lose sight of the fact that the very policies passed to increase health insurance access are having the opposite effect: "That's our government at work."
Indeed, some prominent government officials who lobbied hardest for Obamacare are now also joining waiver-mania -- including liberal Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who has been pushing for an individual mandate exemption for his state of Oregon, and Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who is pushing to waive Obamacare's burdensome 1099 reporting requirements of small businesses.
Fearful of retribution by HHS Secretary and chief inquisitor Kathleen Sebelius, who has threatened companies speaking out about Obamacare's perverse consequences, many business owners who obtained waivers refused to talk to me on the record. One said tersely: "We did what we had to do to survive."
A new House GOP majority now has the chance to protect the rest of America from this regulatory monstrosity. We want out.
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