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New Policy Will Remove Useless Health Regulations

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is proposing a new policy that would require most health care regulations to go through a review every 10 years to assess their value and necessity.

The policy, announced on November 4 and now in a 60-day comment period, is offered under a provision of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 and still on the books.

“For decades, presidents have said agencies should retrospectively review their regulations. Under President Trump, HHS is actually doing it,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a news release. “With HHS regulatory responsibilities as wide-ranging as food safety, drug approval, adoption and childcare, and healthcare financing, it’s essential that we know—and inform the American people—whether we’re executing on these responsibilities in a way that maximizes benefits, minimizes costs, and keeps up with the times.”

If a review shows a regulation provides no benefit, it will be nullified, under the proposed rule.

Regulations will go through a two-step review. First, the review will ascertain whether the regulation has a significant economic impact on a small number of entities, as the RFA requires, and whether it qualifies for review under the act. The second review will reexamine the need for the regulation and assess complaints and complexity, conflicts with other regulations, and whether it is still relevant.

Lack of Change

Eighty-five percent of all federal regulations implemented before 1980 have never been edited, HHS says.

Implementing this part of the RFA is a positive step, says Robert E. Moffitt, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

“The Trump administration is looking to reduce the imposition of costly, duplicative, and excessive regulations that undercut innovation and economic productivity, for they impose higher costs on consumers and restrict personal economic freedom,” said Moffit.

The policy is a double-edged sword, Moffitt says.

“The Trump administration must take care not to put into place a process that the bureaucrats can easily manipulate to destroy conservative health and welfare accomplishments,” said Moffitt. “In the case of the Trump administration, these accomplishments are particularly impressive: the expansion of telehealth, the benefit flexibility for millions of patients in the Medicare Advantage program, and Trump’s stellar achievements in health care price transparency.

“Of course, whatever is created by regulation can be destroyed by regulation,” said Moffitt. “That is why more lasting change can only be secured through legislation. ”

AnneMarie Schieber(amschieber@heartland.org) is managing editor of Health Care News

Internet info:

“Securing Updated and Necessary Statutory Evaluations Timely,” Federal Register, November 4, 2020: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/11/04/2020-23888/securing-updated-and-necessary-statutory-evaluations-timely


AnneMarie Schieber
AnneMarie Schieber
AnneMarie Schieber is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Health Care News, Heartland's monthly newspaper for health care reform.


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