Barrasso: Healthcare waivers will reach 5 million

Five million people will eventually ask for waivers from part of the healthcare reform law, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) predicted Tuesday.

The Health and Human Services Department has granted 1,433 waivers, covering 3.2 million people. The department announced last Friday that those waivers, originally granted for one year, can be extended until 2014 and new waiver requests won’t be accepted after Sept. 22.

“Why are they giving all these waivers? Well, it's because of the policies of this administration,” Barrasso said at a news conference Tuesday. “This has been a nightmare for this administration. And frankly, you look at it, it's an embarrassment.”

He predicted a “tidal wave” of waivers as the September deadline approaches and said he expects that 5 million people will ultimately seek the exemption the waivers provide.

“I think every American ought to be able to get a waiver from this health care law and every employer, because we want to make it easier and cheaper for the private sector to create jobs in the country,” Barrasso said. “And this health care law is making it tougher and more expensive.”

The waivers exempt companies from the healthcare law’s restrictions on annual benefit limits. Benefit caps become illegal in 2014, a ban that phases in over the next three years. The waivers allow plans to keep their existing benefit limits if complying with the new law immediately would cause a dramatic hike in premiums.