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That Thing About Unions Being Waived from Obamacare? Another Whopper Lie.

There aren't any unions that are exempted or waived from Obamacare. None. But that's what Mr. Boehner wants us to believe. He wants us to believe that Obamacare is unfairly targeting ordinary Americans, but waiving everyone else from participating in the law. And it's simply untrue.
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Painting: MAD Magazine

Painting: MAD Magazine

Last week, we proved that the congressional Republicans and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) have been serially lying whenever they've said that Congress is "exempted" from the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

In fact, not only is Congress not exempt, but Obamacare specifically mandates that members of Congress, as well as Hill staffers, leave the Federal Employees Benefit Health Plan and attain health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges. Furthermore, it was a Republican lawmaker, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who proposed this amendment to the Obamacare law in the first place. And on top of everything else, it was Boehner who lobbied the Office of Personnel Management to allow the government to continue paying 75 percent of the cost of premiums under the marketplace insurance plans.

So you'd think being caught red-handed in a huge, whopper lie would perhaps dictate some restraint from Mr. Boehner. Perhaps he'd do well to cool it for a while -- to exercise a little more caution about what he blurts out while appearing in public.

Appearing on Sunday's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Boehner did it again. The leader of the Republican Party lied about the Obamacare law. Boehner was asked about a previous remark in which he said he wouldn't attach the de-funding of Obamacare to a continuing resolution. Deftly changing the subject, Boehner replied:

But providing -- providing fairness to the American people, under Obamacare, is -- all we're asking for. My goodness. They give big businesses a waiver. They give all these unions a waiver. And yet they're forcing the American people to buy a product, buy a product that they do not want and cannot afford.

Yes, he went there again. More organizations are unfairly exempted from the law, he said. Notice, however, that he didn't toss Congress into the mix this time, so perhaps he's making progress. But let's zero in on one particular sentence: "They give all these unions a waiver."

No they didn't.

There aren't any unions that are exempted or waived from Obamacare. None. But that's what Mr. Boehner wants us to believe. He wants us to believe that Obamacare is unfairly targeting ordinary Americans, but waiving everyone else from participating in the law. It's simply untrue.

And before anyone suggests he simply misspoke on television, here's the line in tweet form (the link in the tweet points to his own website, which quotes the above line from This Week verbatim):

So how do we know he's lying? A simple Google search for "unions waivers Obamacare" yielded the following headlines:

Obama administration denies labor's request for health care waiver (The Washington Post)

Denied: WH Refuses Union Pleas for Obamacare Waivers (Breitbart)


Report: Administration denies unions’ request for Obamacare waiver (Twitchy)

Someone should tell Mr. Boehner about Google. Incidentally, Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS tried to get away with this lie back in 2011. Politifact gave it a "pants on fire" rating.

It's likely, though, that Boehner has been vastly exaggerating one aspect of the law and deliberately inflating it to imply that unions are entirely waived from it. During an address from the floor of the House of Representatives last month, he said, "Over the last year or so, last couple of years, the president has given his friends in the labor unions some 1,100 waivers to this law."

This sounds familiar. The Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the law, once allowed businesses and other organizations to apply for a waiver from one very specific aspect of the law: the two year phase-in of the ban on annual limits. (Before Obamacare, health insurers could stop paying benefits after a certain dollar amount in medical bills was reached. This would infamously leave extremely sick or injured patients without coverage after racking up medical bills that exceeded the limit.)

More than 1,300 businesses that offer employees a special low-premium, but low-annual-limit, health insurance plan, known as a "limited benefit" or "mini-med" plan, applied for and received a waiver from conforming to the phase-out of annual limits over the last few years. The application period ended over two years ago. Waiver or not, all of these organizations will have to fully comply with the law as of January when the ban goes into full effect.

By the way, it's not 1,100 "unions." Boehner was lying about that, too. The number of unions that have received a waiver from the annual limit ban phase-in is around 34, give or take. The number jumps to around 300 if you include plans jointly run by businesses and unions. The rest of the "waivers" are exclusively businesses. According to Politifact, McDonald's, Cracker Barrel, Mesa Air Group, Dish Network and O'Reilly Auto Parts all received the waiver -- and each will have to conform to the ban as of January 1, 2014 when it goes into effect on schedule.

So not only has Boehner been holding the government and the economy hostage by not calling a vote on a clean continuing resolution in spite of the fact that there are reportedly enough votes to pass it, but he's also been repeatedly lying about the Obamacare law at the center of the budget fracas. At this point, even Republicans ought to be seriously questioning Boehner's ability to function as an effective speaker. The GOP needs a moderate at the helm who isn't beholden to the deceitful and radical politics of the tea party caucus. That person definitely isn't Mr. Boehner, whose mendacity and political extremism is off the charts these days.

Bob Cesca is the managing editor for The Daily Banter, the editor of, the host of the Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show podcast and a Huffington Post contributor.