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How Captain Elliot’s Party Boats Got an Obamacare Waiver

John on November 15, 2010 at 9:17 am

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit noted over the weekend that buried deep on the HHS website is a list of over 100 companies/organizations that have been granted waivers from the new health care law. Some of the companies on the list are well know, e.g. Olive Garden and Cracker Barrel restaurants and CIGNA health insurance.  Others on the list seem conspicuous because of their small size.

For instance, how did a company called Captain Elliot’s Party Boats get a waiver for their 10 employees?

It turns out Captain Elliot’s Party Boats is the name of a company in Freeport, Texas which had two divisions. One division offered sport fishing cruises in the Gulf of Mexico, i.e. party boats. That part of the business was sold off sometime in 2008, but the company continues to operate its Texas Crewboats division, which services the oil industry.

This morning I spoke to Casey Cundieff, owner of Texas Crewboats and asked him about the waiver and how he procured it. He explained that several months ago he had a meeting with the company which handles health plans for his employees. He didn’t remember all the details but he did remember the bottom line, “It was better for us.” His recollection was that the new law required some additional coverage which would be more expensive.

A look at this page on the HHS website explains that the new law restricts the ability of insurers to offer so-called “mini-med” policies that have a total lifetime payout limit. Obviously as the potential payout limit of the plan goes up in accordance with the new law, so will the cost of the plan. Casey’s company is one of 111 which have received a one year waiver from this requirement.

Facing the increased costs, Mr. Cundieff agreed to let his insurance company seek the waiver adding, “It wasn’t anything that was hard to get.” Apparently he’s right about that. The 111 groups who have received waivers thus far have an aggregate membership of 1.1 million individuals. But the reprieve is temporary. Mr. Cundieff and the other companies on the list will have to reapply for the exemption next year and the year after that. The plan is that the waivers themselves will end once the full law takes effect in 2014.

At that point, Mr. Cundieff and other business owners will have to decide whether or not to keep offering insurance at all or, if they do, how to pay for the increased costs. For the short term, HHS is apparently helping companies avoid those tough decisions. During his push for the law, President Obama repeatedly promised “if you like your plan you can keep it.” He failed to add the fine print to that declaration, i.e. only with a waiver and only for a limited time.

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