Carlson, Regis get waivers on health reform

  • Article by: CHEN MAY YEE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 11, 2010 - 9:23 PM

The companies got a one-year delay on a mandate to increase medical benefits.

At least two Minnesota-based companies are among dozens of employers that the federal government has granted waivers from one part of the health reform law.

A provision in the new law requires employers to raise yearly limits on how much medical benefits will cover, but some employers said that'd make health care costs too expensive for them and their employees to bear, forcing them to drop coverage altogether. Many of these employers offer "mini-med" plans, which are cheaper than traditional insurance but provide limited coverage.

Nov. 5, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department said 111 applicants have been OK'ed for a one-year waiver from that section of the law. They include Carlson Restaurants, which owns T.G.I. Friday's, and hair salon chain Regis Corp.

Without waivers, companies would have to provide a minimum of $750,000 in coverage next year, increasing to $1.25 million in 2012, $2 million in 2013 and unlimited in 2014.

According to HHS, waivers depend on "a series of factors including whether or not a premium increase is large or if a significant number of enrollees would lose access to their current plan because the coverage would not be offered in the absence of a waiver."

Carlson Restaurants and Regis declined interview requests but e-mailed statements.

"Providing competitive health benefits to our team and their family members is a very important priority for us," said Anne Varano, senior vice president for human resources and communication at Minnetonka-based Carlson. "The [Health and Human Services] waiver allowed us to continue providing health benefits to our team members at an affordable cost while giving us additional time to develop longer-term approaches. "

Said a spokesperson at Minneapolis-based Regis Corp.: "Until [health care] reform is further solidified, it is premature to comment."

Chen May Yee • 612-673-7434

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