GOP: HHS Skirted Legal Rules When It Issued Essential Benefits
On Friday, Republican leaders of five prominent congressional committees sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying the department circumvented its legal requirement on issuing essential health benefits standards under the federal health reform law, Modern Healthcare reports (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 1/13).
The letter stated, "By issuing a 'bulletin' rather than a proposed rule, the administration has sidestepped the requirement to publish a cost benefit analysis estimating the impact these mandates will have on health insurance premiums and the increased costs to the federal government" (Quinton, National Journal, 1/13).
It added that the administration's action deprives states of their right to assess how the requirement would affect residents, and "is the antithesis of an 'open and transparent'" approach to governing that was promised by the Obama administration.
The letter also stated that the bulletin "does not have the force of law and cannot, therefore, be considered an indication of what the proposed or final rule will decree. Thus states still have many unanswered questions and no more certainty than they had before the bulletin was released."
The letter was signed by:
- House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (Mich.);
- House Education and Workforce Committee Chair John Kline (Minn.);
- House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (Mich.);
- Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Michael Enzi (Wyo.); and
- Senate Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch (Utah) (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 1/13).
The lawmakers requested that Sebelius by Jan. 27 provide an explanation of the legal basis and rationale for issuing the bulletin, a cost-benefit analysis of the guidance in the bulletin and "a commitment that administration staff will in the future brief Congress before briefing lobbyists and special interest groups on important issues relating to the implementation of the health law" (National Journal, 1/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.