More Cronyism With Obamacare Waivers

May 19, 2011

President Obama's administration claims that there is no cronyism involved in granting waivers from provisions in the Obamacare law, but when AARP becomes really makes you wonder.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized its rate review rules and decided to exempt providers of "Medigap" policies. AARP just so happens to be the nation's largest seller of such policies. And oh, by the way, the AARP donated millions to the Obamacare advertising campaign, and millions more on lobbyists. The fruits of their labor were successful in getting the bill passed - and now this.

Not only did the AARP advocate for Obamacare, they also included in their support an attack on their biggest competitor. Of course, the White House and HHS are trying to claim that favoritism didn't play a role when deciding this exemption, but come on, who honestly believes that?

The AARP break exempts the health care provider from publicly releasing and explaining health care payment rate increases on their supplemental insurance plans. Even prominent democrats were against this exemption. Senate majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) wrote to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last October asking her not to make this exemption:

"For example, some beneficiaries enrolled in the United of Omaha Life Insurance Company will see their Medigap premiums increase by approximately 40 percent between 2010 and 2011," they wrote. "An increase of this magnitude raises serious concerns about premium-setting practices and rate review procedures in place for Medigap policies."

This latest revelation comes just days after learning that 20 percent of the latest round of waivers granted went to upscale hotels, restaurants and nightclubs in Nancy Pelosi's home district. Even if Nancy Pelosi wasn't directly involved in the decision process, it still stinks of favoritism. Those who were in the position to grant these waivers obviously knew that these businesses were in the former Speaker's home district. Those waivers exempted these businesses from the annual limit requirements set by Obamacare.

If the bill is so great, why should any company want a waiver, even if it's temporary? Also, if the process for determining who gets the waivers is meant to be transparent, why isn't the HHS releasing the names of rejected waiver applicants?

The HHS could being doing so much to ease concerns of favoritism - but its not. By refusing to release the names of these waiver applicants, it fuels the fire that something suspicious is going on. 1,372 waivers have been granted, including several grants to entire states. That, along with the AARP exemption, and the high percentage of waivers granted to Nancy Pelosi's district paint a clear picture that this law is deeply flawed, the White House knows it, and now they're trying to help clear allies out of the mess the law has created in order to continue political support. It's shameful.