Last week, Republicans jumped on the news that McDonald’s and other retailers who offer mini-med insurance plans would stop providing health insurance coverage if they were required to spend 80% to 85% of premiums, citing the claims as proof that the law overburdens businesses, undermines existing coverage, and should be repealed. Several days ago, in an effort to prevent these companies from dropping their insurance plans, HHS announced that it would exempt certain firms that offer these plans from meeting the minimum coverage requirements for at least a year (and has promised flexibility with the MLR regulations, once they are finalized). But the GOP is still not satisfied.
During an interview this afternoon with WIBC’S Greg Garrison, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) first criticized the law for over-regulating employers, noting that the announcements about businesses dropping coverage are part of “the early shock waves of Obamacare,” but also attacked the administration from loosening the regulations to prevent coverage erosion:
PENCE: Greg, it’s perfectly predictable that you’re going to see [sic] once a government exercises a takeover of any area of the economy, then they get to pick winners and losers on the basis of political decisions of bureaucrats. That’s the exertion of power. I wasn’t surprised at all to see McDonald’s say they were thinking about canceling their health insurance plan. I think you’re going to see millions of American businesses do that in a couple of years if we don’t get this thing repealed. But the carve out also wasn’t surprising, Greg. That’s why you don’t want a government takeover of health care, because all of the sudden you have bureaucrats with political power are going to be deciding, that company…
Pence pretends that the government selects companies on the basis of size or political consideration, but in reality businesses apply for waivers if they feel like their plans are structured in such a way as to make it impossible to meet the new requirements. And so far, HHS (aware that these enrollees will really have nowhere to go) has been fairly anxious to avoid unsightly coverage drops. Since employees won’t have new coverage options until the exchanges become operational in 2014, the agency is trying to provide a level of flexibility to employers so that they can gradually meet the requirements of the new reforms and transition from subprime insurance that has low annual limits and all kinds of coverage exemptions and into comprehensive basic coverage. These waivers are good for a year, but could be extended until 2014, if employees continue to face a coverage cliff.
Later in the radio interview, Pence reiterated the GOP’s pledge to repeal reform “lock, stock, and barrel” and said Republicans will “use the power of the purse to prevent implementation of Obamacare.” “We’re going to do our level best to prevent implementation of that so that if we have take it to the American people in 2012 in a referendum on health care, we can.” He also didn’t rule out completely repealing the law in the new Congress. “[If] we send decisive majorities for the Republican party to the House and Senate, there is an outside chance that we might have a veto-proof bipartisan majority.”