May 19, 2011
Hear that? It’s the escalating cry of American employers and workers trying to hold on to their health care benefits in the age of stifling Obama health insurance mandates: Gangway! Gangway! Save me! Waive me!
Obamacare refugees first began beating down the exit doors in October 2010. As I’ve documented since last fall, waiver-mania started with McDonald’s and Jack in the Box; spread to Dish Networks, hair salon chain Regis Corp and resort giant Universal Orlando; took hold among every major Big Labor organization from the AFL-CIO to the CWA to the SEIU; roped in the nationalized health care promoters at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (whose board of trustees includes health care czar Nancy Ann DeParle); and is now gripping entire states (Maine, New Hampshire and Nevada all recently got in on the act).
The latest to catch the waive? West Coast liberals.
“Dude, where’s my waiver?”
Yes, smack dab in the middle of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s congressional district, a cluster of San Francisco small businesses is among the latest recipients of get-out-of-Obamacare passes. As Jamie Dupree of Cox Media Group and Matthew Boyle of The Daily Caller pointed out this week, there are at least two dozen Bay Area companies—including bars, restaurants, hotels, tourist shops, real estate and auto firms—that have secured temporary, one-year reprieves from the federal law. It’s the San Francisco Treat that voters didn’t foresee until after the bill was rammed down their throats.
Another noteworthy waiver winner: Seattle-based REI. The trendy Pacific Northwest outdoor equipment retailer’s progressive CEO and Democratic campaign donor, Sally Jewell, appeared with President Obama in 2009 to tout White House health care reform initiatives. Two years later, REI snagged a waiver to protect the health benefits of a whopping 1,180 workers from the very tentacles of the big government bureaucrats Jewell embraced at Obama’s roundtable.
To date, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has granted federal health care law exemptions to more than three million American workers covered by more than 1,300 unions, companies and insurers who had voluntarily offered low-cost health plans with annual benefits limits. Meddling Obamacare architects outlawed those private plans—nicknamed “mini med” plans—in the name of “patients’ rights.” But without special waivers, the escapees would have been forced to hike premiums or drop insurance coverage altogether for mostly low-wage, seasonal and part-time workers.