Waivers for Favors: Big Labor's Obamacare Escape Hatch
President Obama's storytellers recently launched a White House blog series called "Voices of Health Reform," where "readers can meet average Americans already benefiting from the health reform law."
I propose a new White House series: "Voices of Health Reform Waivers," where taxpayers can meet all the politically connected unions benefiting from exclusive get-out-of-Obamacare passes -- after squandering millions of their workers' dues to lobby for the job-killing, private insurance-sabotaging law from which they are now exempt.
At the end of last year, the Department of Health and Human Services had granted some 222 temporary waivers to businesses small and large, insurers, labor and other organizations that offer affordable health insurance or prescription drug coverage with limited benefits. On Wednesday, the agency quietly updated its online list, which now reveals a whopping total of 729 Obamacare escapees -- in addition to four states, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee -- who collectively cover about 2.1 million enrollees.
At least one eyebrow-raising waiver recipient -- the left-leaning, nationalized health care-promoting Robert Wood Johnson Foundation -- has direct ties to the White House. Obama health care czar Nancy-Ann DeParle sits on the foundation's board of trustees.
Most noteworthy: One-fourth of all the waivers (182) so far have gone to Big Labor groups across the country.
The Teamsters Union, which hailed Obama last March for "enacting historic health care reform, providing health insurance to millions of Americans who don't have it and controlling costs for millions more who do," obtained waivers for 17 different locals.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which celebrated the passage of Obamacare as "an achievement that will rank among the highest in our national experience," secured waivers for 28 different affiliates.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers -- which exulted after the health care law's passage that "finally, affordable and comprehensive health care coverage will be available for millions of working Americans" -- saw eight of its affiliates win shelter from the Obamacare wrecking ball.
The Communications Workers of America, which sent its workers to lobby for Obamacare on Capitol Hill as part of the left-wing billionaire George Soros-funded Health Care for America Now front group, snagged a waiver that will spare a hefty 19,000 of its members from the onerous federal mandate.
And the Service Employees International Union, which poured $60 million into Democratic/Obama coffers in 2008 and millions more into the campaign for the federal health care takeover, added four new affiliates to the waiver list: SEIU Local 2000 Health and Welfare Fund, representing 161 enrollees; SEIU 32BJ North Health Benefit Fund, representing 7,020 enrollees; SEIU Local 300, Civil Service Forum Employees Welfare Fund, representing 2,000 enrollees; and SEIU Health & Welfare Fund, representing 1,620 enrollees.
That's in addition to three other previous SEIU waiver winners: Local 25 SEIU in Chicago with 31,000 enrollees; Local 1199 SEIU Greater New York Benefit Fund with 4,544 enrollees; and SEIU Local 1 Cleveland Welfare Fund with 520 enrollees. This brings the total number of Obamacare-promoting SEIU Obamacare refugees to an estimated 45,000 workers represented by seven SEIU locals.
Without the HHS-approved exemptions, these health providers would have been forced to drop low-cost coverage for seasonal, part-time and low-wage workers due to skyrocketing premiums. The only way they are keeping their health care is by successfully begging the feds to spare them from Obamacare.
The Democrats' law seeks to eliminate the low-cost plans (known as "mini-med" plans) under the guise of controlling insurer spending on executive salaries and marketing. The ultimate goal, as I've reported before: forcing a massive shift from private to public insurance designed by government-knows-best bureaucrats.
House and Senate Republicans plan separate investigations of the Obamacare waiver process. Who got one when and why? Who knew whom? Who didn't?
HHS acknowledged Thursday that some 50 sanctuary-seekers had their waiver applications denied, but would not say more. Perhaps the White House storytellers, so eager to profile the "Voices of Health Reform," can enlighten us.