“Corrupt”: Fox News Launches Fact-Free Attack On Health Care Reform Waivers

Fox News, amplifying a fake controversy started by the Daily Caller, is claiming that 38 health-care reform “waivers” granted to businesses in Northern California are evidence of Rep. Nancy Pelosi and President Obama's “corruption.” But the business owner who actually requested the waivers said that they were in no way connected to Pelosi and were part of an annual request for businesses throughout the country, not just in Pelosi's congressional district.

Daily Caller Fabricates Controversy Over HCR Waivers

Daily Caller Fixates On Waivers Granted To Businesses In Pelosi's District. In an article on one-year waivers from certain requirements under health-care reform, the Daily Caller reported: “Of the 204 new Obamacare waivers President Barack Obama's administration approved in April, 38 are for fancy eateries, hip nightclubs and decadent hotels in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's Northern California district.” The Daily Caller added:

Pelosi's district secured almost 20 percent of the latest issuance of waivers nationwide, and the companies that won them didn't have much in common with companies throughout the rest of the country that have received Obamacare waivers. [Daily Caller, 5/17/11]

Fox News Amplifies The Manufactured Outrage And Calls Waivers “Corrupt”

Hannity: “Why Does The Word Corrupt Come To My Mind?” On his Fox News show, Sean Hannity said, “There were 204 brand new Obama-care waivers that were granted in April. Thirty eight of those 204, or 20 percent, came from, let's see, Nancy Pelosi's district. What does that tell you about, first of all, all the companies wanting waivers, some companies granted waivers, a lot of unions have been granted waivers, and then Nancy Pelosi's district is one of the biggest beneficiaries of waivers for health care? What is your reaction to that?” Hannity also said:

Why does the word corrupt come to my mind when I hear that there's any waivers for any person anywhere? I mean, you know, I understand why McDonald's wanted a waiver, I understand why some companies want it. But, you know, the idea that some people are going to be subjected to this law, you know, it seems like this may even hit the equal protection clause by the time this is all said and done. [Fox News, Hannity, 5/17/11]

Bolling: Waivers Are “Blatant Cronyism.” Eric Bolling asked on his Fox Business show: “So, do you think it's a coincidence that 20 percent of the new Obamacare waivers are for gourmet restaurants, nightclubs, and fancy hotels in Nancy Pelosi's district?” He continued: "[S]eriously, the left has absolutely no shame, blatant cronyism. Really? Really? Come on." [Fox Business, Follow The Money, 5/11/11]

Hemmer: Waivers Are A “Potential Scandal.” America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer introduced a segment on the waivers and said that there was a “potential scandal,” adding: “And wait till you hear where a hefty chunk of them are going.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 5/17/11]

Jarrett: Pelosi's “People Get A Big Old Pass.” Greg Jarrett, guest hosting Fox Business' America's Nightly Scoreboard, asked of the waivers in Pelosi's district: “Is this corruption?” [Fox Business, America's Nightly Scoreboard, 5/17/11]

O'Reilly: “This Sounds To Me, Stossel, Like A Scam.” Bill O'Reilly discussed the waivers with John Stossel and said that “this sounds to me, Stossel like a scam.” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 5/17/11]

Palin: “Seriously, This Is Corrupt.” The Daily Caller reported:

“Unflippingbelievable! No, wait, it is believable,” Palin said in an email to the DC. “Seriously, this is corrupt. And anyone who still supports the Pelosi-Reid-Obama agenda of centralized government takeovers of the free market and the corresponding crony capitalism is, in my book, complicit." [Daily Caller, 5/17/11]

Carlson Asks If Waivers Are “Political Corruption.” Previewing a segment on the health care waivers on Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson asked: “Political corruption or just simply coincidence?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/18/11]

But The Waiver Applicant Said That Pelosi Had Nothing To Do With Granting Waivers ...

Business Owner: Waivers Have “Nothing To Do With” Pelosi “At All.” From the Huffington Post:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) played no role in the process by which health care waivers were granted to a number of businesses in her district, according to the company that actually requested the waivers on behalf of its clients.

Flex-Plan Services, a third-party benefits administrator based in Bellevue, Wash., made the formal applications for waivers from President Barack Obama's health care law, said it founder, Hilarie Aitken.

“I don't tend to vote Democratic, but I feel bad for Nancy Pelosi,” Aitken told HuffPost. “She's really being thrown under the bus here. It has nothing to do with her at all. This was just a political power play. The way that they are shaping this -- that the minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, [is behind] all these waivers being granted, and how could she do this -- it's all slanted and wrong”. [Huffington Post, 5/17/11]

The Hill: Waiver Applicant Said Pelosi “Had No Influence On The Healthcare Waivers Granted Last Month To A Long List Of Businesses In Her District.” From a blog post in The Hill:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had no influence on the healthcare waivers granted last month to a long list of businesses in her district, according to the company that managed the applications.

Republican leaders on and off Capitol Hill had slammed the Obama administration for granting a growing number of healthcare reform waivers to constituents of the top House Democrat, suggesting they received special treatment.

But Hilarie Aitken, co-owner of Flex-Plan Services, Inc., which filed the waiver applications on behalf of dozens of businesses, said that's simply not the case.

“It had nothing to do with Nancy Pelosi,” Aitken told The Hill, “and it's really unfortunate that this has turned into such a political story.

”I usually vote Republican," Aitken added, “and I'm a little bit ashamed at where the Republicans have taken this.” [The Hill, 5/17/11]

... And That The Waiver Requests Were Part Of A Large Annual Requests For Businesses - Not Just For Pelosi's District

HHS Approved Waiver Requests For All Of Flex Plan Services' Clients - Including Businesses Outside California. Mother Jones explained that the company that submitted the waiver requests did so for all its clients, not just those in Rep. Pelosi's district:

In fact, the recent waiver applications from businesses in Pelosi's district were not even received by the minority leader's office. Rather, they were submitted directly to the Obama administration through a third-party company, Flex Plan Services, which provides benefit administration to companies in the Bay Area, Washington state, and elsewhere in the country, according to a statement issued by Richard Solarian, an assistant HHS secretary. On March 23, Flex Plan Services submitted applications for annual limit waivers for their clients' health plan, including 69 businesses in California, 20 in Washington state, two in Georgia, and one in Alaska, including restaurants, home health care providers, and other service-based companies. On April 4, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved the waiver request for all of Flex Plan Services' clients--not just the ones in Pelosi's district.

Flex Plan Services never contacted Pelosi's office about their waiver request, and her office did neither provided any information to the company about the waivers nor helped facilitate the request, according to her spokesperson.

In other words, the reason the waivers were clumped together was because Flex Plan Services--which is in charge of administrating all of these businesses' health care benefits--had issued a waiver request for the entire group of businesses. [Mother Jones, 5/17/11]

Moreover, The Waivers Are Temporary, And Companies In Industries That Opposed The Law Have Received Them

FactCheck: Companies From Industries That Opposed Health Care Reform Have Been Granted Waivers. From FactCheck.org:

[A]s of Dec. 3, the federal government had approved a total of 222 one-year waivers that allow the insurance plans at companies like McDonald's, Jack in the Box and Ruby Tuesday, and unions, to ignore the requirement on annual limits. Far from being “Obama's buddies,” as the Internet post claimed, the restaurant industry, through the National Restaurant Association, opposed the legislation. [FactCheck.org, 12/7/10]

FactCheck: Waivers “Merely Give Companies A Temporary Delay Before Being Required To Improve The Coverage Of Cheap, Bare-Bones Plans They Currently Offer.” From FactCheck.org:

We've received several questions about whether businesses have been able to opt out of the new health care law. The companies haven't been granted permission to ignore the entire law, as the Facebook post quoted by our reader might suggest -- but many have been given one-year waivers to delay compliance with a key insurance mandate that was put into place this fall. The White House says it instituted the waiver process to enable those companies to continue to provide limited-benefits plans -- cheap, bare-bones policies called mini-med plans -- until the law is fully implemented in 2014.


The new health care law aims to eliminate low annual coverage caps like those over time, and this is where the waiver issue has come in. The law says that annual coverage limits can't be set lower than $750,000 for new policy years starting between Sept. 23, 2010 and Sept. 23, 2011. That cap will be raised each year until 2014, when the law will require companies to have no annual spending limits on most benefits in health care plans.


The companies that have been approved for the waivers must reapply for them next year. Waivers are available until 2014. [FactCheck.org, 12/7/10]

Mother Jones: Waivers Are “Essentially A Stop-Gap Measure Designed To Keep Employers From Dropping Health Care Benefits All Together.” Mother Jones explained the purpose of waivers for the health care reform law:

Altogether, the Obama administration has granted 1372 waivers and has denied about 100 requests. The mini-med waivers are essentially a stop-gap measure designed to keep employers from dropping health care benefits all together. The White House explains that waivers are granted if conforming to the rules “would disrupt access to existing insurance arrangements or adversely affect premiums, causing people to lose coverage,” acknowledging that the low-benefits plans are sometimes the only option that some employers can offer. The Democrats' rationale is that the other changes under federal health reform will eventually allow employers to receive better, more affordable coverage under the health insurance exchange, when it begins operating in 2014. [Mother Jones, 5/17/11]