After Bemoaning Regulations In Health Reform, Wall Street Journal Criticizes HHS For Loosening Them

This morning’s Wall Street Journal editorial is just another reminder that Republicans won’t stop criticizing the health law no matter how much Democrats bend over backwards to avoid politically controversial provisions or regulations. As we saw during the legislative debate — Democrats will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t and so they may as well do.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) picked up on this meme several days ago on local radio, when he criticized the law for over-regulating employers, but also attacked the administration for loosening the regulations to prevent coverage erosion. The Journal is doing the same here. On October 2nd, the paper criticized the law’s regulatory efforts to eliminate mini-med — subprime insurance offered to hourly workers that restricts the number of covered doctor visits or imposes a relatively low maximum on payouts — and now, just 18 days later, it’s disappointed with the administration is granting wavers to prevent employers from dumping this kind of coverage:

OCTOBER 2: “But McDonald’s didn’t deny that the new rules will wipe out its existing plans. And that’s precisely the point…. Democrats hate mini-med and other skinny-benefit plans, calling them “underinsurance.” ObamaCare is meant to run them out of the market by mandating benefits, eliminating coverage caps and certain technical rules about how premiums must be spent. This despite the fact that Arkansas, Connecticut and Tennessee sponsor their own mini-med plans for state residents as better than having no insurance at all. In other words, the choice is between relatively affordable coverage that isn’t as generous as Democrats think it should be and dumping coverage entirely.

OCTOBER 20: “And is it really better that HHS will impose destructive regulations and then decide on ad hoc basis who they’ll hit? This is an invitation to play favorites, exact political retribution and pursue whatever arbitrary goals HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her successors happen to hold. ObamaCare amnesty shouldn’t go merely to the CEOs who can get White House aide Valerie Jarrett on the horn.”

There is certainly an argument to be made for applying the regulations to mini med plans, but one can’t make that case and then also criticize the outcome — leaving thousands of beneficiaries uninsured and nowhere to turn. The administration is using the waivers as a bridge to 2014, hoping to protect existing coverage and avoid unfavorable headlines. But the latter seems nearly impossible — no matter what they decide to do.