Mini-med waivers indicative of reform law problems, Republicans say

Problems implementing coverage requirements for so-called "mini-med" plans are indicative of larger issues rampant in the healthcare reform law, Senate Commerce Committee Republicans said during a hearing Wednesday afternoon.

Republicans took issue with the number of waivers Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued to employers offering low-value, mini-med plans. Sebelius has issued more than 100 exemptions to mini med plans, which often fall below the restricted annual limits required by healthcare reform. The law phases out use of annual dollar limits over the next three years until 2014, when they will be banned for most plans.

"We need to be very careful in treading on this ground and look at yet another piece of the healthcare reform bill that may have gone so far overboard to throw the baby out with the bathwater," said ranking member Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) said healthcare reform is already proving to cost more than expected.

"This thing is said to have reduced the deficit, but we’re seeing all sorts of unintended consequences with this healthcare reform law," said Ensign. 

Committee chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who opposes mini-med plans, described the waivers as a temporary fix and said they will not be necessary when state insurance exchanges, required by healthcare reform, become operative in 2014. Despite defending the waivers, Rockefeller continued to denounce the low-value plans as providing "a false sense of security" to employees.

"It lets them think they have health insurance when they really don’t," Rockefeller said. "By the time they realize they don’t have health insurance, it's too late.”