Obamacare exemptions grow by more than 100,000 in one year
Minnesota labor unions are the state’s biggest recipient of federal health care waivers, according to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) records. The waivers release employers from complying with onerous provisions in the Affordable Care Act. Critics have previously accused the Obama Administration of using waivers to reward well-connected political allies, including local units of government and labor unions, while other employers are forced to operate under the law’s strict rules. The latest round of waivers from HHS provides additional fodder for critics.
Fifteen Minnesota-based labor unions with more than 90,000 combined workers were exempted from paying for a key requirement of the health care reform law. Thirty-four Minnesota local government units and schools with 8,100 employees and fifty-six businesses and non-profits with 18,800 employees were also exempted from increasing their coverage limits and costs as required under the healthcare mandate. Altogether, 104 Minnesota unions, local governments, companies and non-profits with 117,200 employees were allowed to forgo the expensive federal mandate until 2014. The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (FFM) reported that 24 Minnesota entities with about 14,000 enrollees took advantage of the exemption in the first round of federal waivers granted in 2011.
The law increases the minimal level of medical coverage to $1.25 million in 2012 and $2 million in 2013, leading to cost concerns among “mini-med” or limited benefit plans. In a news releaseposted online, HHS officials acknowledge that what the Affordable Care Act was supposed to give—affordable coverage—it takes away in this case.
“Requiring mini-med plans to comply with the new rules could cause mini-med premiums to increase significantly, forcing employers to drop coverage and leaving some workers without even the minimal insurance coverage they have today,” according to the release.
Among the Minnesota organizations benefiting most significantly from the federal exemption were the Carpenters and Joiners Welfare Fund (21,364 enrollees), City of Bloomington (750 enrollees), Robbinsdale Area Schools (2,108 enrollees) and Regis Corporation (3,617 enrollees).