Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Whodunit on End-of-Life Care Rules

Under questioning at the House Energy and Commerce Committee, OMB regulatory head Cass Sunstein admitted he had no idea who attempted to “sneak” regulations on end-of-life care into part of a massive, 692-page physician payment regulation released in late November.  To briefly summarize, the Administration went from attempting to defend the end-of-life provision in a Wall Street Journal article in late December to withdrawing the provision entirely one week later – due in no small part to e-mails from Congressional staff indicating they should “not broadcast this accomplishment” by publicly advertising the existence of this secret rule.

Mr. Sunstein’s surprising candor about this regulatory debacle raises some further interesting questions.  If the Administration’s own regulatory “czar” doesn’t know who tried to manipulate the rulemaking process to insert this controversial provision, who does?  What information about the regulatory process did White House officials learn to prompt their U-turn on including this provision – and when will that information be disclosed to the public?

Mr. Sunstein also conceded that the rulemaking process is one way for the federal government to enact controversial policies without allowing elected Members of Congress to have a say in the matter.  Given this admission, and his related comments, the American people deserve a MUCH more detailed explanation about the apparent shenanigans that transpired behind closed doors regarding this controversial provision – and what actions the Administration will take to ensure it does not happen again.