Conservative blogs and Fox News lit up this weekend after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told CNBC on Friday that the businesses that received government waivers from the Affordable Care Act are “small,” gleefully pointing out that large corporations like McDonalds also applied for and were granted exemptions. Watch the segment:
The story perpetuates two important Republican myths — one completely unsubstantiated and refuted charge that Democrats inappropriately influenced HHS to grant waivers to politically-connected unions or companies in Pelosi’s district, and the second that the waivers themselves are proof that the law is not working as intended.
The waivers — some 1,800 in all — are part of the law itself and speak more to its success than failure. The ACA provides HHS with flexibility to grant businesses and states additional time to comply with the law’s requirements, permitting these entities to gradually transition beneficiaries from subprime insurance into more comprehensive basic coverage. In other words, the waivers are a bridge to 2014: businesses with insurance plans that are structured in such a way as to make it impossible to meet the regulations surrounding annual limits and medical loss ratios will have additional time to redesign their benefit packages and won’t dump coverage for their existing employees before they can enroll in insurance through the state-based exchanges.
If anything, the flexibility that waivers provide undermines the GOP’s main criticism against reform — that the ACA is a one-size-fits-all law designed by bureaucrats without taking the needs of business into consideration. And conservatives are now pretending that in following the letter of the law, the administration is actually allowing businesses to circumvent it.