HHS Unveils Rules For State Waiver Requests.

Note: Is the  Obama administration responding to Judge Vinson or the pressure to relax the more contentious parts of the HCR because of pressure for repeal? I am continually surprised by the waivers that are given to groups (1000 plus) and now States. Will the result of the waivers increase the pressure to overturn HCR or because it is relaxed the best parts preserved? Will President Obama keep his signature legislation? In  my view, waivers and relaxing requirements for States are major concessions. The impact of this back peddling will not be known for some time. Some say that waivers defeat the purpose of “everyone” purchasing insurance by letting certain groups off the hook. Others have said it is a natural result of compromise in the political process. But it is the season for the presidential election and posturing is everything…

From NAHU Newswire:

Bloomberg News (3/11, Wayne) reports that on Thursday, the Obama Administration issued rules which would allow states to "dodge provisions" in the healthcare law "that have sparked debate such as a mandate that most Americans purchase insurance." Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that the "’innovation waivers’ the government may issue in six years enact that clause and will ’empower states to take the lead on implementing’ the law." But, Michelle Dimarob, who is the spokeswoman for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), says that under this plan, the federal government retains final authority over what the states are required to do for an exemption.

USA Today (3/11, Kennedy) reports that HHS "proposed new waiver rules today designed to give states greater freedom in developing their own healthcare systems and policies." Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight director Steve Larsen says, "One of the principals is that states are not the same. … That’s why the law gives the states flexibility." Larsen adds that "the president’s administration supports bipartisan legislation that would make those waivers available in 2014, rather than 2017, and that officials welcome comments about the proposed rules."

        The National Journal (3/11, McCarthy, subscription required) notes that this "announcement comes just over two weeks after President Obama backed bipartisan legislation…to move the waiver date in the law from 2017 to 2014." Under the rules, states would be required to "first pass a law that codifies their health overhaul plans." Next, they would "go to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and prove through actuarial certificates their plans would provide coverage that is as comprehensive and affordable as those offered on insurance exchanges, cover at least as many people as the federal government plan, and not increase the federal deficit."

CQ HealthBeat (3/11, Norman, subscription required) says, "The Obama administration seized another opportunity to stress its flexibility when it comes to the healthcare law with an announcement Thursday of proposed rules on how states may apply to change certain sections of the law as long as the law’s goals are met." But, "Republicans who want to repeal the law…continued to contend that the ‘state innovation waivers’ are pointless because the federal government would keep control over basic elements of the overhaul that the GOP says are unworkable."

        The New Orleans Times-Picayune (3/11, Barrow) reports, "The message from the Department of Health and Human Services is that the waiver process, combined with the existing Medicaid waiver process that has been in place for years, gives states the latitude that governors like Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal say they want." Still, "a key policy question is exactly how far from the insurance exchange model a state could actually stray, given the parameters outlined Thursday." Meanwhile, "Louisiana Health Secretary Bruce Greenstein said Thursday that the parameters essentially make the proposal a waiver in name only."