House Hearing Reveals the Truth About the Obamacare Waivers

Yesterday, after over 1,000 annual limit waivers have been granted by HHS, Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow Ed Haislmaier testified at a congressional hearing that Secretary Sebelius has exceeded her grant of authority in granting the waivers.

At the hearing, Steven Larson, Deputy Administrator and Director for the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, argued that waivers act as a bridge from now until 2014, when Obamacare will be fully implemented. Larson said the waivers were always on the table to phase out mini-med plans.

But Heritage Senior Research Fellow Ed Haislmaier pointed to 21 different sections in the new law that authorize the HHS Secretary to provide waivers for specific purposes—and authority to grant waivers for annual and lifetime limits was not among them. In his testimony, Haislmaier argued, “HHS has exceeded its statutory authority in creating this waiver process. The statute does not explicitly grant HHS authority to waive the application of this provision.”

It’s simple, really: If Congress intended to institute a waiver process for this particular provision of Obamacare, they would have included it in the legislation. It seems clear, then, that Congress never intended to award waivers for this provision of the law. In doing so, HHS has overstepped its authority.

This news comes after Avik Roy's blog post that a Congressional Research Service report says Kathleen Sebelius, despite her claims, may not have the power to fix the CLASS program established by Obamacare—a program that even she admits is fatally flawed.