Rep. Stearns Says Implementing Regulations Too Burdensome; Caution Needed in Future

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The top Republican on a House subcommittee June 13 said regulations implementing the health reform law are too burdensome and should be reconsidered under the administration's regulatory review plan.

President Obama in January issued an executive order (Exec. Order No. 13563) that requires agencies to review their regulatory process to ensure that regulations are promulgated transparently and in the least burdensome way possible.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, said that those principles are admirable but that the Health and Human Services Department's regulations implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act fall short.

“I am just concerned they are being ignored when it comes to the actual implementation of large-scale government programs such as the president's health care plan,” Stearns said during a hearing on the regulatory review process at HHS.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the full committee, said that the burden of regulations must be weighed against the benefits they will produce—and that the regulations implementing PPACA will do more good than harm.

“Regulations aren't pulled out thin air for no reason,” he said. “They exist to implement laws Congress enacted to help protect taxpayers funds; improve public health and safety; keep our air and water clean; and keep consumers safe.”

Stearns said regulations on medical loss ratios, grandfathered insurance plans, and accountable care organizations are particularly complex, and he asked whether HHS would examine them again.

Sherry Glied, assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at HHS, said the regulations had been fully evaluated.

“We've already weighed their benefits and costs and shown that their benefits considerably exceed their costs,” she told the committee.

In her testimony Glied outlined HHS's current regulatory review plan. Comments on the preliminary plan are due June 30.

By Sarah Barr

More information about the hearing is at .