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Letter to the editor

Need a waiver from Obamacare? Get in line

February 02, 2011 - By U.S. REP. MIKE ROGERS

Here is one of the secrets that Washington hopes that you don't notice about the new $2.6 trillion health care law. If you don't like the law's slew of new mandates and taxes on families, doctors and employers, you can get an exemption.

If you don't want the government picking your family's insurance plan and your doctor, you can opt out. If you don't want to pay higher premiums and watch your health care costs skyrocket, you can get a free pass.

How do you receive an exemption to the job-killing health care law? It's simple: all you have to do is become politically connected. Beginning last fall, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius began awarding waivers to unions and corporations that couldn't comply with one of the law's countless new mandates.

But if the law is so great, shouldn't it apply to everyone?

Here's how it happened. Many employers provide workers with "mini-med" health plans, which is low-cost insurance with higher deductibles and smaller annual limits. It's not full coverage, but for millions of hourly workers it's better than being uninsured. Companies complained to Sebelius that they would have to drop this coverage because it doesn't meet the health law's unreasonable requirement that all plans include comprehensive benefits.

Some of the administration's closest allies — including 43 unions — were quickly told that they didn't have to comply with the law. The latest count is that 222 unions and corporations have been granted waivers to portions of the health care law by President Obama's health secretary. The list includes names like the Service Employees International Union and McDonald's.

More mandates are scheduled to take effect this year that will make it even harder for businesses to afford the coverage that they currently offer. When it's all said and done, HHS is expected to release more than 30,000 pages of new regulations that will create an impossible compliance task for employers and families alike.

This charade is the clearest indication yet that the health law has failed to live up to the president's often repeated promise that if you like your health plan, you can keep it. That promise has already been broken for workers with mini-med plans, and millions of other small business health plans will soon be deemed "unacceptable coverage" in the eyes of HHS bureaucrats.

I believe every American deserves an exemption from the health care law, not just political friends of the Obama administration and Fortune 500 companies.

That is why I support repealing the law and passing commonsense reforms that lower costs for everyone and put families in charge of their health care, not the government.

Make no mistake, most people won't be lucky enough to get an exemption from the secretary of HHS.

Families in Michigan are still asking "how does the health care law impact me?" Well, the unfortunate truth is that by 2014, every American will be required by law to carry government-designed health insurance plans that will cost at least $2,100 more than current plans. Choice and competition in health insurance will be severely limited. Doctors and hospitals will be handcuffed by new federal mandates. And without a waiver from every new mandate included in the law, most Americans will find that government-run health care is not "reform."

We can and must do better.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is a Republican from Brighton representing Michigan's 8th District. Rep. Rogers wrote this for the Jan. 18, 2011 Detroit News edition.

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