Wyden To Romney: You Can’t Use Waivers To Undermine Health Reform

Mitt Romney insists that he will weaken the Affordable Care Act by allowing states to opt-out of key requirements of the law through the “innovation waiver” provision championed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). But as Politico’s Jennifer Haberkorn reports this morning, Romney will have a hard time making good on his promise. Wyden’s waiver wasn’t designed to destroy the law — as Romney intends to do — but rather allow states greater flexibility in meeting its goals:

Wyden, who got the waivers into the health care law and has proposed new legislation moving the waiver implementation date up to 2014, tells POLITICO he is happy that people are paying attention to the waivers. They represent an area of common ground, he says, where Republicans and Democrats can support health coverage and cost goals while allowing states to innovate.

But he warns that if Romney uses the waivers to undermine the law — which is the presidential candidate’s goal — it won’t work.

“Anybody who tries to move outside the standards of the bill — which is the coverage and costs and the like — well I’ll certainly fight that. But I think lots of other people will too,” Wyden said.

“I’m going to blow the whistle on that and say that’s not what it was about. You don’t get to come up with a waiver as a back-door way to get out of health care and not do anything.”

To qualify for waivers, states must demonstrate that they have devised an alternative plan that can cover “at least as many citizens with coverage that is at least as comprehensive and affordable as prescribed under federal law.” States that meet those requirements will only be exempt from complying with the individual mandate, the employer penalty for not providing coverage, and the exchange regulations; they will still be required to expand their Medicaid programs, regulate health insurers and meet the law’s numerous other standards.


Unfortunately for Romney, the executive branch does not have the authority to unilaterally opt states out of a law passed by both chambers of Congress, meaning that he will have to look to other means to achieve his goal of taking away coverage from 32 million Americans and increasing the deficit by $230 billion.