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Barrasso: Health Care Waivers for All Americans

The more Americans find out about President Barack Obama’s health care law, the less they like it. A majority of Americans want out.

Since October, the administration has granted waivers to various unions, businesses, insurers and others who can’t afford the law’s burdensome mandates.

The Department of Health and Human Services has now granted 1,471 annual benefit limit waivers covering more than 3.2 million people.

I am introducing a bill that will allow every American to apply for a waiver from the health care law. Under my bill, any American can submit a waiver application seeking relief from any — or all — of the health care law’s mandates. Waivers will be granted to individuals who show that the health care law is either increasing their premiums or decreasing their access to benefits.

So far, the administration has ignored most Americans’ demand for a way out of the law.

Instead, it has granted half of its waivers to people who get their health coverage through unions. This is neither fair nor reasonable. Already, unions such as the Service Employees International Union — the same union that enthusiastically supported the law — say that following this health care law would be “financially impossible.”

I don’t think any American should have to bear financially impossible costs because of this law.

The financially impossible elements of this bill have only become more obvious with time. That’s why the steady drip of waivers has become such an embarrassment for this administration — and is why it recently changed the rules so abruptly.

 In June, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that all employers and organizations who can’t afford the law’s crushing mandates must jump through a new set of hoops. All employers and organizations — even those who have waivers already — must apply by September for long-term waivers. Those long-term waivers would last until 2014.

Instead of ending the waiver process, the administration should extend it to include all Americans.

If not, families, companies and organizations of all sizes will soon be hit with crushing mandates.

Under the administration’s plan, employers will be forced to provide $750,000 worth of coverage to every employee this year. By next September, this number balloons to $2 million. If you’re an employer who can’t afford $2 million in coverage next year, you had better apply for a waiver now. Otherwise, you will be stuck with costs that only get higher and higher.

If innovative Americans want to start new businesses after September, they will be faced with two difficult choices. They can offer high-cost, government-approved health insurance — making it expensive to try to open a new business and hire workers. Or they can refuse to offer coverage at all because they can’t afford the health care law’s sky-high mandates.

The incentives in the health care law will encourage businesses to drop insurance coverage. Under the law, businesses are permitted to drop out of paying for employer-provided coverage so long as they pay a fine of $2,000 per employee. This fine is far less than the exploding costs imposed by the health care law.

The employees who are “dumped” will be forced to get their insurance through heavily subsidized insurance “exchanges” run by Washington.

The annual cost of subsidizing these ballooning numbers of insurance policies — about $900 billion — is nine times what the White House has claimed. In short, taxpayers will get stuck with a bill of nearly a trillion dollars every year.

I will continue to fight to repeal and replace this law with patient-centered care that lowers costs for all Americans.

Until we are able to repeal and replace the health care law, I will move forward with the Waive Act. This bill offers all Americans the freedom to choose. It gives them the right to seek and be granted a waiver out of the president’s health care law.

It is time to transfer power from Washington back to the American people. This will ensure they get the care they need from the doctor they want at a price they can afford.

Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.) is an orthopedic surgeon and vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

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