HHS OKs 94% of health care law waiver requestsPosted On: Feb. 17, 2011 12:00 AM CST
WASHINGTONFederal regulators have approved 94% of requestsmainly from sponsors of “mini-med” and other limited benefit plansfor waivers from having to meet a key requirement of the health care reform law, according to information released in conjunction with a congressional hearing.
The waivers are needed because most, if not all, mini-med plans run afoul of federal rulesmandated by the health care reform lawthat set a minimum annual dollar limit on essential benefits that health care plans must provide in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The minimum limit is $750,000 in 2011, $1.25 million in 2012 and $2 million in 2013. No annual limits are allowed starting in 2014.
To date, 975 waiver applications have been submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services. Of those, 919 were approved and 56 denied, according to a memorandum by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who is the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Rep. Waxman released the memorandum Wednesday, which was based on an analysis of HHS data by Democratic committee staffers, simultaneous with a committee hearing on the issue.
About 2.4 million individuals are covered in plans that have received HHS waivers.
Of the denials, 13.6% of waiver applications were from union plans or plans that serve union members, the Waxman memo said. By contrast, only 2.9% of nonunion health insurance waiver applications were denied.
That disparity shows that “contrary to Republican assertions, the annual waiver process is not biased in favor of plans that cover union employees,” Rep. Waxman said in the memo.
Mini-med plan providers can obtain one-year waivers from the required minimum annual benefits in situations where meeting those requirements would result in a significant decrease in access to benefits or significantly increase premiums, HHS said in a notice it published last year.