White House to Stop Issuing Health Law Waivers

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WASHINGTON -- President Obama says the goal of his healthcare law is for every American to have health insurance.

So why is his administration issuing so many waivers, excusing organizations from the new law? Political pressure is about to bring that practice to a stop.

Nursing homes, lavish restaurants, and even night clubs have been excused from the massive new health care law.

More than 1,400 employers who offer insurance coverage have also been waived. However, that will end in September.

"If the bill was so good, you wouldn't need all these waivers," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said.

Sen. Hatch is one of many lawmakers wanting answers from the Obama administration.

Specifically, they want to know which groups were denied waivers, a question that became more pressing once critics saw who got them.

"Most of the waivers were given to unions and companies and for companies with businesses within some of the leading liberal Democrats' jurisdictions," Hatch said.

Those jurisdictions include the one House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., represents.

But Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "There is no role that politics plays in any way, shape or form in the processing of the application."

Instead of political poker chips, the Obama administration insists waivers serve as a bridge.

When the law takes full effect in 2014, employees dropped from their employer's insurance can enter the new taxpayer subsidized healthcare exchange.

Until then, a portion of the healthcare law dealing with annual benefit payments could put workers at risk of losing their coverage.

That creates a public relations nightmare for the administration -- a law designed to get more Americans insured possibly causing people to lose their insurance without a waiver.

"I think that everyone should hate the 'Obamacare' waiver story. People who love 'Obamacare' should hate it because there are people being waived from it," explained Hadley Heath, a senior policy analyst at the Independent Women's Forum.

"People who hate 'Obamacare' should hate the waivers because there are people who aren't being waived," Heath said. 

The Government Accountability Office recently reported that the administration used objective standards to issue waivers. But critics argue the process seems shady.

"The problem is when you do this kind of thing, you create something that's arbitrary, this waiver process," Ed Haislmaier, a health care expert with the Heritage Foundation, told CBN News.

"And you do, even if you're being straight and honest, you do create suspicion because it's a 'who you know' process. It's not what the law says," he said. 

The Obama administration said most of the insurers that needed waivers have probably already applied so ending the program won't hurt.

However, cutting off waivers also ends a political distraction for the president ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

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Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.