The milestone is as telling as it is grim. The Hill reported Monday that after the latest bout of waivers awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services, the number of businesses and unions lucky (or connected) enough to avoid the law's onerous coverage requirements now stands at 1,040 - and the number of Americans exempted at roughly 2.6 million.
HHS posted 126 new waivers on Friday, bringing the total to 1,040 organizations that have been granted a one-year exemption from a new coverage requirement included in the healthcare reform law enacted almost a year ago. Waivers have become a hot-button issue for Republicans, eager to expose any vulnerabilities in the reform law.
In order to avoid disruption in the insurance market, the healthcare overhaul gives HHS the power to grant waivers to firms that cannot meet new annual coverage limits in 2011. The waivers have typically been granted to so-called "mini-med" plans that offer limited annual coverage — as low as $2,000 — that would fall short of meeting the new annual coverage floor of $750,000 in 2011.
"We don't want to take away people's health insurance before they have some realistic other choices,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview with The Hill earlier this year.
Republican lawmakers have seized on the waivers as proof that the law they want to see repealed is flawed, and they have accused the administration of giving them waivers as gifts to union allies. The administration has rejected both claims as Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have asked HHS for in-depth details about every waiver decision and request.
The Hill says Republicans are "eager to expose any vulcerabilities in the reform law," but it seems the law itself is doing a fine job exposing its own vulnerabilities without help from the GOP.
Thoughts on the new numbers?