In July, HHS granted an additional 106 waivers exempting organizations from a provision in the federal health reform law that prohibits caps on health benefits, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The agency now has granted waivers to 1,472 organizations, which cover 3.4 million U.S. residents (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 8/19).
The waivers were granted to employers that offer low-cost health plans, or "mini-med" plans. Republicans have criticized the waivers, arguing that they are either concessions for Democratic allies or evidence that the reform law does not work.
However, a recent Government Accountability Office report found that HHS has been granting the waivers in a "fair and unbiased manner" (California Healthline, 6/20).
The waivers granted in July will last for three years. Meanwhile, HHS will permit organizations that received one-year exemptions to extend them until 2014, when the reform law fully takes effect and prohibits mini-med plans.
HHS previously announced it will stop accepting applications after September (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/19).
Meanwhile, CMS on Friday released supplemental guidance for health reimbursement arrangements, which stipulates that HRAs with annual limits do not have to submit individual applications for waivers (CQ HealthBeat, 8/19).