Monday, March 28, 2011

Health Law Waivers Draw Kudos, and Criticism

Obama administration officials say they were expecting praise from critics of the new health care law when they offered to exempt selected employers and labor unions from a requirement to provide at least $750,000 in coverage to each person in their health insurance plans this year.

Instead, Republicans have seized on the waivers as just more evidence that the law is fundamentally flawed because, they say, it requires so many exceptions. To date, for example, the administration has relaxed the $750,000 standard for more than 1,000 health plans covering 2.6 million people.

Maine has just won a three-year reprieve from a provision of the law stipulating that insurers selling coverage to individuals and families must spend at least 80 percent of premium revenues on medical care and efforts to improve it. The White House had described this as one of the law’s most beneficial provisions, guaranteeing that consumers would get “more value for your dollars.”

The Obama administration lowered the requirement to 65 percent for Maine, after finding “a reasonable likelihood” that the tougher standard would drive one big carrier out of the market for individuals, leaving thousands without insurance.

Five other states — Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada and New Hampshire — have requested similar waivers, and at least a dozen other states are considering whether to apply.

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