We Passed the Bill, But We STILL Don’t Know What’s In It…
The Mercatus Center is out today with several papers examining the quality of Obamacare regulations. The papers take a specific look at eight Obamacare-related interim final rules – those rules that took effect WITHOUT prior public comment – published last year, and effectively undermine Speaker Pelosi’s famous quote that we had to pass the bill to find out what’s in it. According to the studies, the regulatory analysis performed by the HHS bureaucrats to justify these Obamacare regulations is so poor, we passed the bill and we STILL don’t know what’s in it:
- “The health care [regulatory impact analyses] presented no monetary estimates of benefits, often overestimated the number of people who would benefit, and usually underestimated costs – often by hundreds of millions or billions of dollars.”
- “The regulation establishing subsidies for early retiree health insurance failed to consider the possibility of “crowd out,” meaning a substantial portion of the subsidies would be given to employers who were going to continue health insurance for early retirees anyway. This omission means the analysis substantially overstates the number of people who would retain coverage as a result of the regulation.”
- “None of the regulations consider “moral hazard” – the risk that individuals will engage in wasteful health care spending or unhealthy activities because the insurance company is paying most of the cost.”
- “For at least three and possibly five of the eight rules, more accurate estimates of benefits and costs would likely have reversed the conclusion that benefits outweighed costs.”
- “In numerous cases, the agencies neglected to analyze alternatives that would have been obvious to researchers familiar with the health policy literature. For the regulation extending health insurance coverage to adult dependent children up to age 26, the analysis did not even consider using the established Internal Revenue Service (IRS) definition of “dependent,” even though that arguably would have made compliance much simpler. Instead, the regulation involved a whole new definition.”
- “The analysis of the regulation mandating coverage of preventive services did not consider alternative criteria for covered services, such as services that produce net cost savings or that produce results at some specified cost per outcome. In addition, this analysis selectively cited literature that conveyed the impression that most preventive services pay for themselves by reducing the need for future health care expenditures, when in reality only a minority of such services do.”
Another Mercatus analysis found that Obamacare regulations scored significantly lower than other federal regulations with respect to their quality. When judged on 12 criteria such as data documentation (How verifiable are the data used in the analysis?) and goal metrics (Does the rule establish measures to track its future performance?), the eight Obamacare regulations scored lower than other federal regulations issued in 2008 and 2009, including those issued by HHS.
As a reminder, through the end of 2011 the Administration had ALREADY issued more than 10,000 pages of Obamacare-related regulations and notices in the Federal Register. By noting the weak analyses that regulators have used to justify these Obamacare regulations, the Mercatus studies have made the case not only that Obamacare’s impact on business could be more costly than advertised, but also that the supposed benefits of these regulations may end up being illusory – meaning at a time of economic weakness, businesses have been saddled with additional costs for no great purpose.