SEIU, the Affordable Care Act and Waivers

SMEAR: SEIU Is using loopholes in the new healthcare law to get waivers

So is it true?


The overwhelming majority of SEIU members are covered by plans that will be complying with the $750,000 cap requirement. Before we reformed our national healthcare system, SEIU was on the frontlines figuring out how to make sure low-wage workers had access to healthcare. For example, while most janitors in Texas don’t have any health insurance, Houston janitors who are SEIU members were able to get the healthcare they needed through union initiatives, including free primary care through the Houston Service Workers Clinic.

Now that the Affordable Care Act has passed, SEIU funds have applied for waivers to ensure that our members have the best coverage possible until all the benefits of the law kick in.

SMEAR: The administration granted a disproportionate number of waivers to healthcare reform allies such as labor unions. Is this true?


A recent audit by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative watchdog of Congress, found no merit to the rightwing accusations of favoritism and unduly granted waivers for unions. The GAO analysis found that the Obama administration granted or rejected waivers based on objective criteria, not partisanship. Furthermore, according to the GAO's data, the majority of denials were for plans that covered union employees. [See recent articles in Mother Jones and The Hill for more details].


  • 1,415 applicants have been granted waivers as of April 25, 2011.
  • A number of SEIU funds have applied for or have been granted waivers.
  • The full list of granted waivers can be found here.

BACKGROUND: The passage of the Affordable Care Act included the promise that Americans can keep their current health insurance. As part of this promise, the law provided flexibility to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in writing regulations limiting annual benefit caps on essential benefits to “ensure that access to needed services is made available with a minimal impact on premiums.” In order to preserve existing coverage, the HHS regulations allow plans with an existing annual cap under the new limits to apply for a waiver. This is vital to making sure that workers don’t lose their employer-sponsored healthcare coverage.
  • The waiver process is a key part of healthcare reform because it helps ensure that workers won’t lose their employer-provided health coverage.

  • It’s important to remember that the coverage we're talking about is low cost plans that cover low-wage workers, some of whom have never had healthcare coverage in their lives.
    • Example: Houston janitors. Most janitors in Texas don’t have any health insurance, but thanks to the SEIU Fund and this waiver, the janitors in downtown Houston can get the health care they need, including free primary care through the Houston Service Workers Clinic.
  • SEIU funds designed these benefits with low wage workers in mind. They are designed to provide affordable access to health care services.

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SEIU and Affordable Care Act Waivers

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