The Obama administration approved 204 new waivers to Democrats' healthcare reform law over the past month, bringing the total to 1,372.
The waivers are temporary and only apply to one provision of the law, which requires health plans to offer at least $750,000 worth of annual medical benefits before leaving patients to fend for themselves. Still, Republicans have assailed the waivers as a sign of both favoritism and of major problems with the law.
Administration officials say the law allows the Health and Human Services Department to grant the waivers to avoid disrupting the insurance market before the law overhauls the insurance system in 2014. They say the waivers are granted through a transparent process.
The plans newly approved for waivers cover more than 160,000 people,bringing to nearly 3.1 million the number of individuals in plans exempted from the health law’s requirements. Of the participants receiving waivers, more than half – over 1.55 million – are in union plans, raising questions of why such a disproportionate share of union members are receiving waivers from the law’s requirements. The percentage of participants receiving waivers that come from unions also continues to rise – the number was 48% in April, and 45% in March.
Then there are the state waivers, which continue to pile up:
The Health and Human Services Department will let two more states —Nevada and New Hampshire — phase in healthcare reform rules that govern insurers' spending.
The new healthcare law requires health plans in the individual market -- people who buy coverage on their own,rather than getting it through an employer -- to spend 80 percent of their premium revenues on medical costs. But states can request an adjustment if they determine that immediately implementing the new limits would drive insurers out of the state and disrupt consumers' access to care.