(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration has granted one-year waivers to 28 separate local chapters of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), exempting them from a requirement under the new health care law that bans annual limits on what insurance plans will pay for medical coverage.
The UFCW’s political action committee spent $673,309 in independent expenditures promoting the election of Barack Obama in 2008.
That PAC--the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union Active Ballot Club--also contributed $1.8 million to Democratic federal candidates in 2008 and $1.7 million to Democratic congressional candidates in 2010.
The HHS waivers to 28 separate UFCW health insurance plans affect 83,563 enrollees.
The health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, bans annual caps on medical coverage beginning in 2014. The ban prohibits an insurance plan from limiting how much it will spend on a policy holder’s medical coverage each year. Under the law, the Department of Health and Human Services is phasing the coverage limits out. In 2011, yearly caps can be no less than $750,000; in 2012, they can be no less than $1.25 million; and in 2013, they can be no less than $2 million in 2013.
In September, the HHS announced it would grant waivers to some employers to prevent workers from losing their benefits if that employers’ insurer could not meet the health care law’s requirements on annual limits. HHS says grants the waivers if it determines “compliance in the interim final regulations would result in a significant decrease in access to benefits or a significant decrease in access to benefits or a significant increase in premiums,” according to a Sept. 3 memo by Steve L. Larson, director of the HHS Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.
The 733 waivers that HHS has allowed so far cover 2.2 million insurance enrollees.
UFCW Communications Director Jim Papian told CNSNews.com that the UFCW locals that have received waivers from HHS with waivers had health-care plans that they had negotiated with the employers of their members. The annual benefit limits on these plans vary by the local chapter, he said.
“The waiver prospect is a way to make sure the regulations are working for workers, working for business, working for communities where these businesses serve, working for taxpayers,” Pappian told CNSNews.com. “If you look at all major legislation, whether it be even the Social Security legislation passed in the Roosevelt administration or Medicare that was passed in the Johnson administration, these acts go through an enormous process to tweak them in order to get to the most positive results that actually serve the people they are meant to serve.”
The House Energy and Commerce Committee is seeking more information from HHS about who has applied for waivers, who has been granted waivers, who has been denied waivers and on what grounds the waivers have been granted or denied.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) recently told CNSNews.com he believed a congressional investigation will show the waivers were politicized.
“You’re going to find out that by the president doing that with the secretary of HHS, he violated one of his main principles when he ran for office--and that was that special interests were not going to have an in his administration,” Grassley said. “And this is a perfect example of special interests having an in in his administration when they get those waivers.”
Papian said the waivers were not granted for political reasons but to help the country as a whole.
“I don’t think that’s the case,” Papian told CNSNews.com, when asked if he thought political allies of the administration were given a preference in the distribution of waivers. “Businesses have applied. Unions have applied. I think it’s meant to serve the American people, business and workers.”
The following is a list of UFCW Local health care plans receiving health care waivers, according to the Department of Health and Human Services:
1. Indiana Area UFCW Union Locals and Retail Food Employers' Health and Welfare Plan covers 6,885 enrollees.
2. UFCW & Participating Food Industry Employers Tri-State Health & Welfare Fund covers 107 enrollees.
3. UFCW Local 1500 Welfare Fund covers 77 enrollees.
4. UFCW Local One Health Care Fund covers 4,335 enrollees.
5. Local 888 UFCW covers 4,004 enrollees.
6. UFCW Local 1262 and Employers Health & Welfare Fund covers 3,028 enrollees.
7. Local 377 UFCW covers 1,142 enrollees.
8. UFCW Local 371 Amalgamated Welfare Fund covers 3,800 enrollees.
9. UFCW Allied Trade Health & Welfare Trust covers 68 enrollees
10. UFCW Local 227 covers 1,125 enrollees.
11. UFCW Maximus Local 455 covers 59 enrollees.
12. UFCW Local 1262 covers 5,390 enrollees.
13. United Food and Commercial Workers Retail Employees and Employers Health
and Welfare Plan covers 98 enrollees
14. United Food & Commercial Workers Unions and Employers Midwest Health Benefits Fund covers 821 enrollees.
15. United Food and Commercial Workers and Employers Arizona covers 516 enrollees.
16. United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1000 and Kroger Dallas Health and Welfare Plan covers 7,389 enrollees.
17. Delmarva United Food and Commercial Workers covers 2,405 enrollees.
18. United Food & Commercial Workers Unions and Employers Local No. 348 Health & Welfare Fund covers 13,663 enrollees.
19. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 New Hampshire covers 148 enrollees.
20. The waiver for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1459 and Contributing Employers Health and Welfare Fund covers just four enrollees.
21. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 464a covers 8,228 enrollees.
22. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 911 covers 582 enrollees.
23. United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1000 covers 3,855 enrollees.
24. Wisconsin United Food & Commercial Workers Unions and Employers Health Plan covers 775 enrollees.
25. United Food and Commercial Workers Union (Mount Laurel, NJ) covers 4,100 enrollees.
26. United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1459 covers 1,400 enrollees.
27. United Food and Commercial Workers and Participating Employers Interstate Health and Welfare Fund covers 6,780 enrollees.
28. United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1995 covers 2,779 enrollees.