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Mythbuster: ‘Fake Controversy’ on Waivers

Republicans, in a desperate attempt to score cheap political points, are willing to risk the health coverage for hard-working Americans. Attacking the temporary waiver process on annual limits in the Affordable Care Act that would ensure that workers don’t lose their current health coverage until 2014 when they will have an opportunity to shop on the health exchanges is pathetic, but not surprising, coming from the same Republican crowd that supports ending Medicare as we know it.

Media Matters summarizes the absurdity of this ‘fake controversy’ in their post “Corrupt”: Fox News Lies About Health Care Reform Waivers:

Fox News, amplifying a fake controversy started by the Daily Caller, is claiming that 38 health-care reform “waivers” granted to businesses in Northern California are evidence of Rep. Nancy Pelosi and President Obama’s “corruption.” But the business owner who actually requested the waivers said that they were in no way connected to Pelosi and were part of an annual request for businesses throughout the country, not just in Pelosi’s congressional district.

Daily Caller Fabricates Controversy Over HCR Waivers

Fox News Amplifies The Manufactured Outrage And Calls Waivers “Corrupt”

But The Waiver Applicant Said That Pelosi Had Nothing To Do With Granting Waivers …

… And That The Waiver Requests Were Part Of A Large Annual Requests For Businesses – Not Just For Pelosi’s District

Moreover, The Waivers Are Temporary, And Companies In Industries That Opposed The Law Have Received Them

Read the entire post on MediaMatters.org»

THE FACTS ON WAIVERS

Waivers are reviewed and granted solely by the Administration in an open and transparent process so workers currently enrolled in ‘mini-med’ policies like those in San Francisco and across the country will not be punished and lose the minimum coverage they already have.

These waivers are a temporary measure to ensure employees don’t lose the coverage they have between now and 2014 when Americans will have an opportunity to shop for affordable coverage on the health exchanges and will no longer be at the mercy of insurance companies placing coverage limits on policies.

Richard Sorian, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at HHS, posts on the White House blog:

The Truth About Waivers: Protecting Coverage for Millions of Americans

Today, you might have seen news stories about waivers from certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act. There has been no shortage of confusion and deliberate obfuscation on this issue and we want to ensure you have the facts.

Under the Affordable Care Act, we have implemented new rules that phase out, by 2014, health insurance companies’ ability to slap restrictive annual dollar limits on the amount they will pay for your care. But between now and 2014, we also want to make sure workers are able to maintain their existing insurance, because on their own they would likely be shut out of the individual market or face unaffordable options. To do that, the Affordable Care Act allows the Department of Health and Human Services to issue temporary waivers from the annual limit provision of the law if it would disrupt access to existing insurance arrangements or adversely affect premiums, causing people to lose coverage. So far, we have granted 1,372 of these waivers to employers, health plans, and others in all 50 states, covering less than 2 percent of the insurance market and protecting coverage for more than 3.1 million Americans. We have been completely transparent about this process, announcing the waiver process in a regulation last summer, publishing clear guidance on the application process on our website, and posting a list of waivers we have granted on our website.

These temporary waivers will not be available beginning in 2014 when annual limits are banned and all Americans will have affordable coverage options. And millions of Americans – including many small business owners – will be able to shop for affordable coverage in new competitive marketplaces.

Some have raised questions about waivers that were recently granted to companies in California. So there’s no confusion, here are the facts:

A company called Flex Plan Services is a third-party administrator that provides benefit administration services for employers in a number of states, including: California, Washington, Alaska, and Georgia. One type of plan they administer is known as a health reimbursement arrangements (HRA or employer contributions to a tax free account). Many of the company’s clients are hotels, restaurants and home health agencies, all of whom employ low-wage workers.

On March 23, Flex Plan Services submitted 92 waiver requests on behalf of 45 employer clients. On April 4, 2011, HHS approved the request.

HHS applied the same standard to the application from Flex Plan Services that it uses when reviewing any application for a temporary waiver. Waivers are only available if the plan certifies that a waiver is necessary to prevent either a large increase in premiums or a significant decrease in access to coverage.

In addition, enrollees must be informed that their plan offers coverage with a restricted annual limit.

No other provision of the Affordable Care Act is affected by these waivers: they only apply to the annual limit policy.

The Affordable Care Act puts an end to many of the worst insurance company practices including refusing to sell a policy to a family because someone had cancer or a child has asthma; cancelling coverage when a patient files claims because of an unintentional mistake in their paperwork; and slapping annual or lifetime limits on how much care you can receive. When these rules are fully in place in 2014, our country will be much better off and the cost of coverage will be within reach for the millions of Americans who now live day to day without coverage, worrying about an injury or an illness that could plunge them into bankruptcy. To get from today’s broken system to tomorrow’s patient-centered system takes time and patience through a reasonable transition period. But, together, we will get there.

Richard Sorian is the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Learn more about the waivers from the Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight»

Learn more about the provisions in the Affordable Care Act eliminating lifetime and annual limits on your benefits from HealthCare.gov»

RESPONSIBLE MEDIA REPORT THE FACTS & THE COMPANY WHO APPLIED FOR THE WAIVERS SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT
The Hill:

But Hilarie Aitken, co-owner of Flex-Plan Services, Inc., which filed the waiver applications on behalf of dozens of businesses, said that’s simply not the case. “It had nothing to do with Nancy Pelosi,” Aitken told The Hill, “and it’s really unfortunate that this has turned into such a political story. “I usually vote Republican,” Aitken added, “and I’m a little bit ashamed at where the Republicans have taken this.”

Huffington Post:

“I don’t tend to vote Democratic, but I feel bad for Nancy Pelosi,” Aitken told HuffPost. “She’s really being thrown under the bus here. It has nothing to do with her at all. This was just a political power play. The way that they are shaping this — that the minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, [is behind] all these waivers being granted, and how could she do this — it’s all slanted and wrong”…In actuality, Aitken explained, the high percentage of waivers is the byproduct of local law rubbing against the new national legislation.

CBS News:

The corruption claims, however, appear to be a stretch at best: More than 90 percent of all waiver requests have been approved by the HHS, and officials explain to Hotsheet that these particular businesses simply applied for a waiver.

Mother Jones:

But for the record: it was 20% in the month of April only, mainly because a benefits servicing company that does a lot of work in California submitted a whole bunch of waiver applications at once. And it’s not because San Francisco steakhouses are freeloading, it’s just the opposite: it’s because a San Francisco ordinance requires companies to provide healthcare, which means more of them need waivers for their plans than in most places. And they’re not exempt from healthcare reform, they’re just getting a waiver through 2013, something that was anticipated by the law. (The idea was that inadequate coverage would be taken care of when the law fully kicks in in 2014, but until then even inadequate coverage is better than nothing.) And none of this came within miles of Pelosi’s office. It’s all just wending its way through the ordinary federal bureaucracy.

BUT THE FACTS DON’T STOP REPUBLICANS FROM ‘PERPETUATING THIS FALSEHOOD’
Washington Monthly:

Prominent Republicans, especially those on or eyeing the presidential campaign trail, are pretty busy folks. They could check the accuracy of stories before pouncing on them, but caring about facts is a time-consuming luxury that Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin can’t afford.

Mother Jones:

The allegation that Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) used her political clout to help businesses in her district get around new rules imposed by the Affordable Care Act has crumbled as the facts have come to light. But that hasn’t stopped Republican presidential contenders from perpetuating this falsehood.

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