This is bad optics on two levels. First, it once again illustrates how deeply the corruption and cronyism goes in this administration. Considering we are entering what is sure to be a contentious election cycle, exempting businesses in her district make it look like Pelosi is doing favors in return for local support. Whether that assertion is true or not is moot - perception is reality, and this looks really bad. You can rest assured, though, that conservatives will be watching those businesses during the election cycle to see what level of financial support they offer her campaign. There will also most likely be increased scrutiny (and lots of google mapping) of waiver winners to find other potentially advantageous groupings elsewhere.
Second, it illustrates what a mess the healthcare legislation really is - it was supposed to bring down costs and provide access to coverage for everyone but instead costs have continued to rise and people who currently have insurance now find it threatened. Even staunch supporters are looking for an escape hatch.
Pelosi's response is that criticism of the waivers is "pathetic" (please note the usual Alinskyesque derision):
"It is pathetic that there are those who would be cheering for Americans to lose their minimum health coverage or see their premiums increase for political purposes. These waivers are reviewed and granted solely by the Administration in an open and transparent process so workers currently enrolled in 'mini-med' policies like those in San Francisco and across the country will not be punished and lose the minimum coverage they already have. These waivers will be eliminated in 2014 when Americans will have an opportunity to shop for affordable coverage on the health exchanges and will no longer be at the mercy of insurance companies placing coverage limits on policies.
The complaints coming from this crowd that supports ending Medicare is just another example of putting politics first."
What is really pathetic is her spin on this issue. It almost sounds like she is slamming her own legislation - "It is pathetic that there are those who would be cheering for Americans to lose their minimum health coverage or see their premiums increase for political purposes." That line could also be used to describe the jubilation with which she celebrated the passage of that horrible bill. Her attempt to make her critics look bad in reality only makes her signature piece of legislation look like what it is - an over-reaching, unsustainable jumble of crippling regulations that is so bad that it requires exemption. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) said the waivers constitute:
..."tacit admission that the health care law is fundamentally flawed."
"Despite the president's promise, it appears that just because you like your health care plan does not mean that the administration will allow you to keep it," Upton said.
And to think this 'historic
Many of the groups that received waivers were some of the biggest, most vocal supporters of the legislation - particularly the labor unions. The fact that they are now getting waivers is no surprise, however. After all, they already got one heck of a concession before the bill was ever even passed. This was after a failed attempt to exempt them from the law altogether. But fear not, union cronies - this administration is adept at making end runs around things they find inconvenient. Since they couldn't exempt them directly in the legislation, they will simply hand out waivers instead. That waivers are now being given at this level begs the question, who really is yoked to this harness? So far, it seems only those opposed to the law are being forced to comply - almost like a punishment.
The waivers are for only one year! supporters will cry. But congress just loooooves to extend things, like debt ceilings, the Patriot Act, and Pelosi's personal favorite, continuing resolutions - CRs must be her favorite, since she seemed to prefer them to passing an actual budget last year. This desire to continue things ad infinitum is evident in their deep and abiding affection for tenure (or is perhaps an explanation for it). The waivers are only available in yearly increments until 2014, but, if past experience is any indication, that date, too, will be extended.
What is becoming more and more evident is that under the Obama/Pelosi/Reid triumvirate, there are two laws of the land - one for the average Joe, and another for the administration and their supporters.