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Release of Obamacare “Bulletin” Sidesteps Important Disclosure Requirements

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is sidestepping several important disclosure requirements with the new health care law and is preventing Congress and the American public from being able to assess the true costs associated with the so-called “essential health benefits,” according to a letter sent today to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from several House chairmen and Senate ranking members.
The letter was signed by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), and Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) and their counterparts in the Senate, Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee.
“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,” the chairmen and ranking members wrote. “Additionally, the Administration has avoided publishing a list of unfunded mandates on states and the private sector by issuing a ‘bulletin’ rather than a proposed rule, and has also avoided publishing a list of regulatory alternatives.  Finally, the Administration is not required to respond to comments received regarding this ‘bulletin.’ Publishing a ‘bulletin' rather than a proposed rule is the antithesis of an ‘open and transparent’ process.”
Members requested HHS provide the following information by January 27, 2012:
(1) The legal basis and rationale for pursuing a “bulletin” rather than a proposed rule;
(2) Information documenting the instances over the last 20 years when an agency pursued this type of action prior to publishing a proposed or final rule pertaining to the subject of the “bulletin”;
(3) A cost benefit analysis of the “bulletin,” including an accounting statement showing the Department’s assessment of the benefits, costs, and transfers associated with this regulatory action, as well as the economic impact analysis associated with this “bulletin”;
(4) All documents, emails, and data pertaining to the cost benefit analysis and the economic impact analysis of implementing the essential health benefits “bulletin,” including any unfunded mandates on the states and the private sector and any regulatory alternatives considered by the Administration; and
(5) A commitment that Administration staff will in the future brief Congress before briefing lobbyists and special interest groups on important issues relating to implementation of the health care law.
You can read the full letter here.

NOTE: Under the 2010 health care reform law,  the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) is required to develop a package of essential benefits that must be included in all plans sold through the new health insurance exchanges.  On December 16, 2011, HHS released a “bulletin” on the essential health benefits package. According to the “bulletin,” HHS intends to propose regulations that will require states adopt an essential health benefits package using one of four benchmark plans. However, by releasing a “bulletin” rather than a proposed rule, the Obama administration is not required to publicly disclose an analysis of the costs of their proposal, as well as the impact it may have on the budgets of states and federal government. The information requested by the Republican chairmen and ranking members will help ensure the public is fully informed of the consequences of the recent health care law.

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