Crossroads GPS’s New Target: Health Care Waivers

The right has found its newest political weapon against Obama and the Democrats, revving up its attacks on health care waivers even as accusations of political favoritism have proved spurious. Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies—the dark money sister group to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads—has released a new attack ad that accuses “union bosses”  of “shov[ing] health care down our throats,” then getting a free pass from the new rules imposed by the Affordable Care Act. In a spot more reminiscent of an action movie trailer than a political ad—complete with ominous music, rolling thunderclouds, and melodramatic cinematography—Crossroads GPS presents union leaders as thuggish, Scorcese-style villains who’ve made covert deals with the White House:

The ad points out that the Obama administration has granted 185 waivers to labor unions, accusing the White House of granting political favors to political allies. In an email accompanying the ad, Crossroads GPS rehashes accusations from prominent Republicans this week that Nancy Pelosi—as well as Harry Reid—were handing out political favors through the waiver process. “Earlier this week we discovered a large number of Obamacare waivers being granted in Nancy Pelosi’s congressional district, and in the state of Nevada, where the two top Democrats in Congress reside,” said Crossroads GPS communications director Jonathan Collegio. “The HHS [Health and Human Services] Department, which grants waivers, has yet to tell the public on what criteria they grant waivers, but appearances indicate that waivers are being given to the politically connected.”

In actuality, the Obama administration has very clearly laid out the criteria for granting waivers, as well as has detailed the individual companies and policyholders who’ve reveived them them, which the Department of Health and Human Services has  listed on its website. The waivers don’t exempt these companies from the entirety of federal health reform: rather, most grant a temporary reprieve from a provision that outlaws health insurance that provides less than $750,000 in annual benefits, giving them more time to adjust to the law.

As I reported this week, such waivers in Pelosi’s district came through a third-party company that applied for them en masse without any contact with or assistance from the minority leader’s office. Labor unions have asked for an exemption from complying to the new rules in part because collective bargaining agreements have restricted their ability to make sudden changes to their health policies. What’s more, some 94 percent of applicants have been granted waivers, ranging from big franchises like Ruby Tuesday’s to small local restaurants, dispelling the notion that unions and other Democratic allies have received special treatment.

To be sure, the White House could have done a better job explaining the waiver process. But like Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Sarah Palin, Crossroads GPS has conveniently chosen to ignore this reality in the name of launching another fact-free political attack.