HHS’ Health Care Rules Rush Will Give Some a Miserable Christmas

Dec 14, 2012

The Wall Street Journal has declared the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to be a “madcap dash” that amounts to “political farce.” One bit of evidence is how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is rushing regulations out the door:

HHS is generally issuing rules with only 30 days for public comment when the standard is 60 days and for complex regulations 90 days and more. But the larger problem is that HHS's Federal Register filings reveal many of the rules were approved in-house and ready to go as early as May.

An HHS official was questioned about the odd timing of the release of these rules in a House of Representatives hearing. From Politico Pro [subscription required]:

CCIIO Director Gary Cohen said he’s not aware of politically sensitive rules or regulations being held in the months ahead of the election. Rep. Michael Burgess, during an Energy and Commerce hearing, cited a New York Times story by Robert Pear that said the essential health benefits rule was held between August and the end of November. “I am not aware of what Mr. Pear’s sources are for that and I’m not aware that that happened,” Cohen said.

All Cohen had to do was look at the documents to see that…

  1. A proposed regulation about Essential Health Benefits was signed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator on August 1, but finally approved by Secretary Sebelius after Election Day on November 14 and published in the Federal Register on November 26. [See page 70672.]
  2. Proposed health insurance market rules was signed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator on May 15, approved by Secretary Sebelius on August 6, but only published in the Federal Register after Election Day on November 26. [See page 70617.]

The WSJ editorial asks, “Why the delay?”

Jennifer Pierotti examined the questionable timing and concluded it probably had to do with the election. Because of politics, the business community is being stymied from having enough time to understand how it would be affected by these rules. In the case of the two proposed rules above, public comments are due by December 26, and in the case of a proposed rule dealing with the reinsurance program, comments are due by December 31. That will make for miserable holidays for some health care policy analysts.

Obviously I’m not fan of the PPACA, but it’s here and we all have to deal with it. It has to be implemented in a responsible, considered manner that takes the input of those who will be affected.  Instead, HHS is being a Grinch by rushing rules through that could result in bad policy.

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