Why does anybody need a waiver to a law that’s been ruled unconstitutional? We don’t know; ask the Department of Health and Human Services. On Wednesday, HHS updated its Web site to show that it has now granted 915 waivers to Obamacare’s requirements on benefit limits in health insurance plans. The waivers allow employers to continue offering plans with annual limits on the dollar amount of benefits provided. These so-called mini-med plans are an affordable option for many workers, but they would become unavailable without the waivers.
The waivers are certainly good for the 2.4 million folks who still get to choose an affordable insurance plan, but what about the other 99 percent of Americans with private insurance? If it’s generally acknowledged that this provision makes health insurance more expensive, why not let all consumers have the option of getting mini-med plans?
The answer, of course, is that if everybody could escape from government-designed health insurance, then everybody would. And besides, the HHS Web site explains, “Annual limits waivers are temporary. In 2014 annual dollar limits will be prohibited and mini-med plans will no longer be necessary.” Viola. Since they’re prohibited, nobody will want them anymore.
At National Review, Philip Hamburger notices that the practice of giving favored constituents waivers to burdensome laws bears a striking resemblance to the granting of dispensations during the Middle Ages. This practice once belonged to popes and kings, but was restricted heavily following the English Revolution of 1688. Further, notes Hamburger, the U.S. Constitution “did nothing to authorize delegation of the suspending power to the executive” which raises the question of whether such waivers are even constitutional.
Of course, Judge Roger Vinson in Florida recently ruled Obamacare unconstitutional over a different provision of the law (the individual mandate), and if that ruling holds up on appeal, then nobody will need a waiver anyway.