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Health care waivers smack of corruption, say watchdogs

By Jim Kouri
web posted January 17, 2011

A news story that doesn't receive the coverage it deserves is the so-called ObamaCare waivers that will be handed out to "friends" of the President and supporters of his health care power-grab, according to a public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption.

President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law does not specify which companies or labor unions should receive waivers for its requirements and under what circumstances. Critics of how Heath and Human Services Department has chosen to handle these waiver requests highlight the haphazard nature of the approval process and the fact that companies able to secure these coveted Obamacare exemptions are given an unfair competitive advantage over their rivals.

For example in New York City, the powerful United Federation of Teachers was granted a one-year waiver from compliance with the new health care reform law. "Of course, it should be noted that the UFT, a group that represents tens of thousands of teachers and education professionals, was gung-ho over getting Obama elected and ObamaCare passed. Now they want an exemption while the rest of us get soaked," said political strategist Mike Baker.

According to BigGovernment.com's Warner Todd Huston:  "There was no press releases or flowery Obama announcements of these waivers issued to the press. The HHS buried the waiver announcement six layers deep on its web page and posted them when they imagined no one would notice. It's a typical Friday evening document dump so common when an administration wants to avoid the prying eyes of the people. So much for the most transparent administration in history, eh?"

"One thing is sure about these waivers. Obama rewarded his union pals quite well. Some 15 unions and union healthcare or financial fund and insurance providers fill the list of companies and groups that will not have to operate under Obamacare's destructive rules," said Warner.

Huston reported that these organizations were rewarded with waivers, all of whom worked hard to get ObamaCare passed.

  • The Service Employees Benefit Fund
  • United Food and Commercial Workers Allied Trade Health & Welfare Trust Fund
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union No. 195
  • Asbestos Workers Local 53 Welfare Fund
  • Employees Security Funds
  • Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 123 Welfare Fund
  • United Food and Commercial Workers Local 227
  • United Food and Commercial Workers Maximus Local 455
  • Service Employees International Union Local 25
  • United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1262
  • Musicians Health Fund Local 802
  • Hospitality Benefit Fund Local 17
  • Transport Workers Union
  • United Federation of Teachers Welfare Fund
  • International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (AFL-CIO)

Watchdog group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the Obama Department of Health and Human Services to obtain records regarding the agency's decision to grant "waivers" to companies and labor organizations -- such as the Obama-friendly Service Employees Union International (SEIU) and the unions that represent federal employees -- seeking to be exempt from the requirements of Public Health Services Act Section 2711, President Obama's healthcare reform law.

According to HHS's own estimate, at least 222 companies and unions have received waivers from the law, commonly known as Obamacare.

With its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, Judicial Watch seeks the following information:

A. All records concerning the decision to grant waivers of the Annual Limits Requirements of PHS Act Section 2711; and

B. All communications between McDonald's Corp. and HHS concerning Annual Limits Requirements.

The time frame for this request is from March 2010 to the present.

Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request on October 7, 2010. HHS was required by law to respond by November 8, 2010. However, to date, HHS has failed to produce any records or to provide a justification for withholding responsive records. Nor has the agency indicated when a response may be expected.

In September 2010, McDonald's corporation announced it would have to eliminate a health insurance program for nearly 30,000 low wage employees due to an Obamacare requirement that 80 to 85% of all insurance premium revenue be spent on patient care.

Due to the high administrative costs associated with this type of health coverage program (known as a mini-med plan), McDonald's insurer indicated it could not possibly meet the Obamacare requirement. HHS provided McDonald's a one-year waiver concerning the Obamacare mandate and has been deluged with waiver requests from hundreds of other companies and unions since.

The Wall Street Journal deemed the McDonald's waiver request, "one of the clearest indications that new [Obamacare] rules may disrupt workers' health plans as the law ripples through the real world."

"The Obama administration is the most secretive in modern times. The Obamacare waiver fiasco is exactly the type of chaos that ensues when the federal government attempts to seize control of a large sector of the private economy. And Kathleen Sebelius's HHS is willing to violate the Freedom of Information Act to keep Americans in the dark about this Obamacare failure," said Judicial Watch's head Tom Fitton. 

"Secretary Sebelius might want to begin her implementation of Obamacare by obeying federal law regarding public records. The Obama administration's slapdash handling of these waiver requests has created an enormous potential for political favoritism and influence peddling. The Obama administration must make this waivers completely transparent to the American people so they can be assured, in the least, that the process is not infected by corruption," stated Fitton. ESR

Jim Kouri is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a columnist for The Examiner and New Media Alliance.  In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB. Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.  He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations.  He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.   Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com.   Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc

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