Lawmakers Press HHS for Information on Controversial Obamacare Waivers
Rob Bluey /
Wondering how all those businesses in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s district ended up with Obamacare waivers? The story drew national attention last month, but there’s still little known about the process used by the Obama administration to grant the controversial waivers.
That’s prompted more than 30 members of Congress to write Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius seeking “transparency, fairness, and due process” for the department’s waiver decisions. Heritage’s Ed Haislmaier testified in March that “HHS has exceeded its statutory authority in creating this waiver process.” In fact, HHS apparently developed the waiver rules on its own using a broad interpretation of the law.
“The process by which waivers are approved and denied remains largely unknown,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), who wrote the letter signed by 31 colleagues. “We are hoping Secretary Sebelius will shine some sunshine on the waiver process, making it known how businesses and labor unions are chosen or denied exemptions.”
Huelskamp is making the rounds on a seven-stop town-hall tour in Kansas this week. He’s calling on the Obama administration to grant everyone a waiver from the new health care law. He said that’s the only way to guarantee fairness.
“Evidence continues to flow forth that these waivers are sometimes about who you know, as a multitude of them have been granted to labor unions that have supported the President or to businesses that are in former Speaker Pelosi’s district,” he said. “This entire waiver process screams of political favoritism and is an abomination to the democratic process, to the concept of equality under the law, and to individual freedom and liberty.”
Nearly 1,400 waivers have been granted since passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act last year, about 100 per month. The Daily Caller reported last month that nearly 20 percent of recent waivers went to “fancy eateries, hip nightclubs and decadent hotels” in Pelosi’s upscale district in San Francisco.
The congressional inquiry seeks information on all waivers denied by the Obama administration, including the names of all applicants. The lawmakers also want information on all pending applications that have not been made public on the HHS website and want to know the length of time needed by HHS to decide.
They have given the administration a deadline of June 15 to provide the information.