The Corner

The New HHS Regulation Purge


The Obama administration announced today — with no sense of irony whatsoever — a plan to purge unnecessary health-care regulations.

Has it occurred to them that they might start by turning off the spigot for Obamacare regulations, already numbering 13,000 pages and counting?

This latest effort is supposed to save $3.4 billion over five years, which is much less than a rounding error in the $2.7 trillion annual health-care economy.

And there are clear political undertones to the HHS announcement.

The new proposals are targeted at relaxing rules so hospital workers and technicians would be allowed to perform “tasks they are trained to do, without requiring the supervision or approval of a physician or other practitioner,” according to the department.

The 114-page HHS proposal covers a range of medical positions and services. Paramedical professionals have been lobbying in state capitals for years to expand their scope of practice so nurses can prescribe medications and nurse anesthetists can work independently during surgeries, for example. Now they have a chance to get the federal government to do the job through regulation!

This is a double win for the administration: It buys the political allegiance of hundreds of thousands of para-professionals who would be able to do more and earn more. And the administration clearly sees it is heading for a catastrophic lack of physicians and other medical personal to treat up to 30 million newly-insured people when Obamacare’s new subsidies begin in January. They are preparing to enlist non-physicians to help ease the load.

Certainly there are battles within the medical profession about how much independence non-physicians should be able to have in caring for patients. But it is crucially important that political decisions not be issued that would give them authority beyond their level of training.

Bottom line: It’s very dangerous for these decisions to be made in the political corridors of HHS rather than in the light of day by health plans, health insurers, and medical associations — and in the full view of patients.

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