One way to spin this story is that the president is showing his pragmatism:
As Obama administration officials put into place the first major wave of changes under the health care legislation, they have tried to defuse stiffening resistance from companies like McDonald’s and some insurers by granting dozens of waivers to maintain even minimal coverage far below the new law’s standards.
The waivers have been issued in the last several weeks as part of a broader strategic effort to stave off threats by some health insurers to abandon markets, drop out of the business altogether or refuse to sell certain policies. Among those that administration officials hoped to mollify with waivers were some big insurers, some smaller employers and McDonald’s, which went so far as to warn that the regulations could force it to strip workers of existing coverage.
The problem, as Yuval Levin points out, is that the healthcare system is no longer a set of predictable rules applied equally to everyone - it is now an unpredictable place where politicians hold some companies to a strict set of rules and exempt others:
The exemptions themselves are good news, since the rule would have forced these companies to drop their employee coverage, leaving almost a million workers without the insurance they had before Obamacare. But it means that these companies now need permission from the administration to offer their employees a benefit they have offered for years. And of course, many other companiesthose without the lobbying operation of a company the size of McDonald’s, or without the access to liberal policymakers that a NY teachers’ union hascan’t get the same permission, and so can’t compete on a level playing field, or offer coverage that might entice the best qualified people to work for them. This kind of government by whim, and not by law, is the essence of the regulatory state.
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