Hatch blasts lack of transparency in waiver process

A lack of transparency suggests the benefit waiver process established under the Affordable Care Act needs better oversight, according to a letter Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sent yesterday to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick.

A Jan. 26 HHS announcement on the total 733 waivers from annual benefit limits established under the Affordable Care Act prompted Hatch, who is ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, to worry that CMS' Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), which manages the waiver process, is not working as it should.

The number of waivers was up more than 200 percent since a total of 222 waivers was announced in December. Hatch notes that most of the waivers went to large private employers, labor unions, health insurers and states "ostensibly to ensure that their workers would continue to receive coverage."

Small employers in Hatch's home state of Utah have contacted him, wanting to know why they couldn't get waivers. Many were not aware of the process, Hatch wrote. Back in September, HHS issued guidance for health plans that want to waive restrictions on annual dollar limits for coverage.

"This waiver process obviously stands in stark contrast to the Administration's claims about the value of PPACA in reducing costs and making healthcare more affordable," he wrote.

To learn more:
- read Hatch's letter to CMS head Don Berwick
- here's HHS information on the waivers granted