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Administration Struggles with Fallout from Healthcare Reform Waivers

Congress is out and so is the federal government, but several recent developments will have repercussions on healthcare policy-making today.
The Department of Health and Human Services is facing pressure
from all sides as it decides who should get waivers from new mandates of the
healthcare reform law. HHS ignited a firestorm of controversy over the past few
weeks by granting 30 waivers for the law's restrictions on annual limits, which
says that plans must allow at least $750,000 of coverage in 2011. http://bit.ly/c3MEQf

The agency
said Friday that it has 114 pending applications, and it can expect lobbying on
all sides as it decides what to do. Administration officials say employers —
such as McDonald's —would cancel the cheapest policies if they had to meet the
new requirements, but some advocates say that wouldn't be a bad thing.
California-based Consumer Watchdog is raising particular concerns with MEGA
Life and Health policies, which are believed to be among those seeking a
waiver. 

"MEGA’s
bid to evade the law is a litmus test for President Obama," Consumer Watchdog
President Jamie Court said in a statement. "If he waives one of the most
important rules for one of the worst insurance companies in the market, why did
he pass health reform at all? No insurer should get a free pass to cap
insurance benefits, least of all the kind of junk policies sold by MEGA that
don’t even cover common medical events like a night in the hospital or an
emergency room visit." http://bit.ly/bTMcNN

Meanwhile,
the administration's usual allies at the liberal grassroots group Health Care
for America Now are also raising alarms.

"The
Administration has to make some tough decisions to protect consumers and
businesses and ensure a smooth transition to quality, affordable health care
for everyone," said HCAN Executive Director Ethan Rome. "The key is
to use the waiver judiciously to ensure continuity of benefits now while
staying focused on a future with real health security for all."