Labor Unions Get Lion’s Share of Final ACA Waivers

Published March 6, 2012

The Obama administration released a final list of waivers from the costly mandates of President Obama’s health care law—a list including an overwhelming number of union members.

The waivers were necessary because the ACA mandates no annual or lifetime limits may be placed on coverage, so insurers cannot afford to offer those plans.

In all, 1,625 plans covering 3,914,356 individuals were exempted from these mandates through 2014.

Unions Benefit the Most

According to Edward Haislmaier, a senior research fellow in health policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, labor unions benefited the most from the administration’s waivers.

“A lot of those waivers are for union plans where the union runs the plan for the workers and the employers contribute,” Haislmaier said.

The administration abandoned its earlier practice of issuing annual waivers, instead granting them through 2014. According to Merrill Mathews, a resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation, there is no predicting what will happen in 2014, when exemptions are no longer allowed.

“Part of the waivers [allowed] limits that insurers could impose on a health insurance policy. If you eliminate those limits, as Obama’s law does, prices could go up,” Matthews said.

Mathews noted more than half of the approximately four million individuals receiving waivers are union members, including 82.9 percent of those covered in the most recently updated list of waivers.

Borrowed Time

Haislmaier notes most of the plans receiving waivers will have to end by 2014 “because they are essentially mini-med plans,” a more limited form of insurance plan which does not meet the many requirements of Obama’s law.

“Come 2014 these people are going to lose their coverage, because their plans are not economically viable if they don’t have annual limits. So what that means is the rest of this had better be in place or the administration is going to be throwing people out of—granted, limited coverage, but it’s something versus nothing—in 2014,” Haislmaier said.

“And that gets to the question,” Haislmaier continued, “Is the administration going to be ready when that day comes? I’m just assuming that they think they’re going to be reelected. There are a lot of skeptics who think that even if they got reelected they wouldn’t be ready.”

Loren Heal ([email protected]) is a research programmer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Internet Info:

“Protecting Consumers, Maintaining Options, and Building a Bridge to 2014,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: