Gingrich, Pawlenty Perpetuate Health Waiver Myth

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


The allegation that Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) used her political clout to help businesses in her district get around new rules imposed by the Affordable Care Act has crumbled as the facts have come to light. But that hasn’t stopped Republican presidential contenders from perpetuating this falsehood.

As I reported on Tuesday, the waivers that companies received in Pelosi’s district—20 percent of the total reprieves granted in April—came through Flex Plan Services, a third-party insurance administrator that had applied for the exemptions on behalf of its clients without any involvement by Pelosi or her office. The waivers from Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services allow the local businesses to keep limited-benefit, “mini-med” plans for employees that became prohibited under the Affordable Care Act. 

In fact, the founder of Flex Plan Services, Hilarie Aitken, confirmed that Pelosi had nothing to do with the waivers granted, calling the conservative attacks on the Democratic leader a “political power play,” as The Huffington Post reports. Aitken explains the real reason there were so many waivers coming from Pelosi’s district:

In actuality, Aitken explained, the high percentage of waivers is the byproduct of local law rubbing against the new national legislation. In April 2008, San Francisco passed an ordinance requiring employers to spend a minimum amount per hour on health care for their employees who work in the city. In response, a number of eateries chose to set up Health Reimbursement Arrangements, which are essentially pools of funds set aside by employers to reimburse medical expenses paid by employees…

?”These are some of the administrative hiccups that, I think, when you have a giant health care overhaul like this, you’re bound to have,” said Aitken. “And I think that’s exactly why [the Department of Health and Human Services] put in the option for waivers, because they knew that there are some players who have different types of arrangements all over the nation.”

The truth, however, hasn’t stopped Republicans from trying to spin the waivers as proof of a sweetheart deal. On Fox News on Tuesday night, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty called the waivers as clear evidence of “crony politics or crony capitalism.” He told Sean Hannity: “If you’ve got the right connections, the right lobbyists, the right interest group, you get your special deal, and the rest of us get our wallet out, and that’s in the tax code, it’s in earmarking, and now you see it in ObamaCare.” Newt Gingrich has piled on as well. “This discretionary power wielded by unelected bureaucrats presents an enormous danger for corruption. Indeed, we have already seen how they can be abused,” he wrote in a Wednesday morning newsletter for the conservative website Human Events. 

Since the truth behind the waivers has surfaced, it’s clear that such attacks are purely political. That being said, given the growing scrutiny of the health reform waivers, Democrats may have to examine whether they moved too quickly to implement their new insurance regulations, pushing these companies to ask for these exemptions in the first place.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.