Well now isn’t this a shocker (not) ?
Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district was the hands-down winner in the latest set of health care law waivers announced by the Obama administration.
More than three-dozen businesses with locations in Pelosi’s district were granted temporary exemptions from the law in April, according to information released by the Department of Health and Human Services. The businesses — mostly restaurants and cafes, with a few upscale hotels and clubs mixed in — accounted for about 20 percent of all waivers granted last month.
Pelosi’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It was unclear why so many of the affected businesses were in her district though the Department of Health and Human Services says it determines its waiver policy based on whether businesses can prove they need them to avoid “a large increase in premiums or a significant decrease in access to coverage.”
Pelosi was among the most vocal champions of the health care law as she and other Democrats helped shepherd it through Congress in 2009 and 2010.
On the list of San Francisco businesses with a reprieve on the law were The Stinking Rose, an Italian restaurant; TRU Spa, a day spa in the city; and the upscale Hotel Nikko. Daily Caller first reported on the exemptions in Pelosi’s district.
Mona Charen notes other waiver favoritism shown by the Obama administration (Michelle Malkin writes about that here as well), and cautions as to the dangers of even jokingly suggesting that the admin grant waivers to the entire country:
There are rumblings of suspicion that HHS has shown favoritism — labor unions have received some 26 percent of waivers while constituting only 12 percent of workers. As Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, remarked, “What does it say about the feasibility of the health-care law when the administration needs to exempt over 1,000 health plans from its own law?”
A few wags have suggested that the HHS grant the rest of the country a waiver and be done with it. But the implications of what Prof. Richard Epstein has called “government by waiver” aren’t funny. As Congress has ceded more and more power to regulatory agencies, the opportunities for abuse of power multiply. Writing in National Affairs, Epstein notes that among the companies and entities that successfully sought waivers from Obamacare’s provisions were Pepsico, Foot Locker, the Pew Charitable Trusts, many local chapters of the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers union, and numerous public-employee unions.
But, asks Epstein, “what about employers who do not have the resources to navigate the waiver process? What about those lacking the political connections to make their concerns heard in Washington? And what happens when the one-year waivers run out? Will they be renewed? Under what conditions? And what rights will insurers have to waive then in order to avoid going out of business?”
The world of Obamacare is no place for the little guy.
The danger of waiver power is that it will be used differentially, giving one private entity a competitive advantage over another. The company denied a waiver can bring suit — but litigation is expensive and slow. Additionally, companies may fear government retaliation: “It is no accident that it is often public-interest groups or patient groups that take on the FDA, for instance. It is simply too risky for a pharmaceutical company with multiple applications before the agency to challenge one action if it is vulnerable to a government-induced slowdown on another.” Nor have the courts been particularly solicitous of those who challenge the regulatory state. Epstein observes with regret that “most judges evince great faith in the administrative state, so that the abuse of discretion that lies at the heart of the waiver problem is, to them, a matter best sorted out by administrative expertise — a perpetually overestimated pool of wisdom.”
Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.