More than 1 million Americans have escaped the clutches of the Democrats’ destructive federal health-care law. Lucky them. Their employers and labor representatives wisely applied for Obamacare waivers earlier this fall and got out while the getting was good. Now, it’s time for Congress to create a permanent escape hatch for the rest of us. Repeal is the ultimate waiver.
As you’ll recall, President Obama promised repeatedly that if Americans liked their health-insurance plan, they could keep it. “Nobody is talking about taking that away from you,” the cajoler-in-chief assured. What he failed to communicate to low-wage and part-time workers across the country was that they could keep their plans only if their companies begged hard enough for exemptions from Obamacare’s private-insurance-killing regulations.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, at least 111 waivers have now been granted to companies, unions, and other organizations of all sizes that offer affordable health insurance or prescription-drug coverage with limited benefits. Obamacare architects sought to eliminate those low-cost plans under the guise of controlling insurer spending on executive salaries and marketing.
It’s all about control. If central planners can’t dictate what health benefits qualify as “good,” what plans qualify as “affordable,” and how health-care dollars are best spent, then nobody can. The ultimate goal, of course: precipitating a massive shift from private to government insurance.
McDonald’s, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Jack in the Box are among the large, headline-garnering employers who received the temporary waivers. But perhaps the most politically noteworthy beneficiary of the HHS waiver program: Big Labor.
The Service Employees Benefit Fund, which insures a total of 12,000 SEIU health-care workers in upstate New York, secured its Obamacare exemption in October. The Local 25 SEIU Welfare Fund in Chicago also nabbed a waiver for 31,000 of its enrollees. SEIU, of course, was one of Obamacare’s loudest and biggest spending proponents. The waivers come on top of the massive sweetheart deal that SEIU and other unions cut with the Obama administration to exempt them from the health-care mandate’s onerous “Cadillac tax” on high-cost plans until 2018.
Other unions that won protection from Obamacare:
United Food and Commercial Workers Allied Trade Health and Welfare Trust Fund
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union No. 915
Asbestos Workers Local 53 Welfare Fund
Employees Security Fund
Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 123 Welfare Fund
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 227
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 455 (Maximus)
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1262
Musicians Health Fund Local 802
Hospitality Benefit Fund Local 17
Transport Workers Union
United Federation of Teachers Welfare Fund
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (AFL-CIO)
Two organizations that appear to be chapters of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA).
Several of these labor organizations did not respond to requests for comment about their waivers. But Jay Blumenthal, financial vice president of the Local 802 Musicians Health Fund in New York, did explain to me: “We got grandfathered in” (his description for getting a pass) because “things were moving so fast” and “we need time now to prepare for the law.” In other words: Policy cramdowns first, political fixes later. A supporter of Obamacare, Blumenthal told me he “see[s] no irony, no,” in unions’ having supported the very health-care “reform” from which they are now seeking relief.