President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), headed by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has now granted Obamacare waivers to the entire states of Nevada and New Hampshire. In its letter to Nevada, HHS admits that, without the waiver, “there is a reasonable likelihood” that Obamacare would result in “market destabilization, and thus harm to consumers.” Thus, to try to keep insurers from fleeing that state, HHS has exempted Nevada from a portion of Obamacare’s long list of mandates and requirements. HHS also admits to a “reasonable likelihood” that Obamacare would “destabilize the individual market” in New Hampshire, and has granted it a statewide waiver as well.
So, just to summarize: The federal government passes almost unbelievably complicated and intrusive legislation that even its own Department of Health and Human Services admits is reasonably likely to disrupt markets and harm people. States and other entities then make the case to HHS that this would in fact happen. Sebelius and her underlings then decide — or decide not — to bequeath exceptions to the law for given states, companies, unions, or collections of companies in a given representative’s district. This is not how things are supposed to work.
Nevada and New Hampshire will be two of the most closely contested states in the upcoming presidential election, which of course will determine whether Sebelius will get to keep her job. In the past eight presidential elections, the candidate who has won Nevada has also won the presidency. And in seven of the past eight presidential elections, the candidate who has won New Hampshire has also won the presidency (the only exception being when John Kerry, from neighboring Massachusetts, beat George W. Bush by just over 1 percentage point).