Obama’s New Found Flexibility on ObamaCare Not So Flexible


The big story today is that President Obama has suddenly become more flexible when it comes to enforcing the ObamaCare mandates. He told state governors that he would support amending the dreadful law to allow states to opt out. But there’s a catch.

Mr. Obama said he backed legislation that would enable states to request federal permission to withdraw from the law’s mandates in 2014 rather than in 2017 as long as they could prove that they could find other ways to cover as many people as the original law would and at the same cost. The earlier date is when many of the act’s central provisions take effect, including requirements that most individuals obtain health insurance and that employers of a certain size offer coverage to workers or pay a penalty.

“I think that’s a reasonable proposal; I support it,” Mr. Obama told the governors, who were gathered in the State Dining Room of the White House.

“It will give you flexibility more quickly while still guaranteeing the American people reform.”

The Heritage Foundation explains that he’s really not being flexible at all, as the states will have to enact similar legislation.

One [problem] is that it still locks the states into guaranteeing a generous and costly level of benefits. True, a state could propose alternative benefit requirements if they had the same actuarial value as those in the ACA. But the requirements go well beyond basic coverage, and the HHS secretary is the one who defines “at least as comprehensive” benefits.

Another major problem with the bill is that since ultimate waiver authority rests with the HHS secretary, the waivers granted would probably reflect the administration’s preferences. Senator Wyden claims that his legislation would allow conservative states to opt out of much of the ACA and implement consumer-driven coverage. But he admits that the secretary, not the state, has the final word over what is permitted.

So the Secretary of Health and Human Services will still have the final say on who gets waivers and who doesn’t, and what constitutes an appropriate level of benefits. Nothing has changed.

Politico even confirmed that the president’s bogus flexibility is really just a ploy.

But a source on a White House conference call with liberal allies this morning says the Administration is presenting it to Democrats as an opportunity to offer more expansive health care plans than the one Congress passed.

Health care advisers Nancy-Ann DeParle and Stephanie Cutter stressed on the off-record call that the rule change would allow states to implement single-payer health care plans — as Vermont seeks to — and true government-run plans, like Connecticut’s Sustinet.

The source on the call summarizes the officials’ point — which is not one the Administration has sought to make publically — as casting the new “flexibility” language as an opportunity to try more progressive, not less expansive, approaches on the state level.

He hasn’t moderated his position one bit. He just wants it to appear that way. The only states that will be granted waivers are states that will offer even more benefits. As if any state can afford to do that. They’re all looking for ways to dump people from Medicaid, for crying out loud.

To top things off, he even came out and praised RomneyCare. The Hill called it the “kiss of death” for Mitt Romney. It’s true, but it also goes to show just how cynical this president is. He knows how unpopular his bill is, he pretends to moderate his stance, and then praises a possible opponent’s legislation knowing it will hurt him politically. How twisted is that?