Enzi: Waivers could provide health care flexibility

Press Release – Congress continues to push to improve America’s health care system. On Thursday, during the second in a series of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearings on the topic, several governors indicated easing the process for states to obtain waivers from Obamacare requirements could help.

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., asked governors about their experiences with 1332 waivers. The 1332 waiver allows states to tailor health insurance programs for their state’s needs, though it maintains the same standards of coverage as required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Some states have raised concerns that applying for the waiver is too costly and burdensome.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said they are currently filing a 1332 waiver, but the administrative process takes up an enormous amount of time.

“There is a ton of time being spent on this administrative stuff that I don’t think translates into much value for anybody,” Baker said.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert said we need to streamline the process. “Once it’s been approved by one state, it ought to be automatically approved for another state.”

Herbert emphasized that each state has different health care needs.

“We need to respect the regional differences and demands in the marketplace for health care coverage,” Herbert said. “They’re not all the same, and that’s why we encourage flexibility.”

Under the ACA, 1332 waivers have only been eligible for approval since January 1, 2017, but many states have laid the foundation over the last several years to prepare for it. In total, 23 states have filed bills or taken executive action to initiate 1332 waivers, according to the National Council of State Legislatures. Thirteen of these states have enacted the legislation needed to submit a waiver to Health and Human Services (HHS), and seven have submitted a waiver application. Two states – Alaska and Hawaii – have been approved for a 1332 waiver.