Health Insurance Mandates Show Why Regulatory Reform Is Needed

November 11, 2013

For more than three decades, presidents issued executive orders telling federal agencies to conduct "regulatory impact analysis" to assess the likely effects of major proposed regulations. Yet the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) analysis accompanying the regulation that implements the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) essential health benefits mandate reads like an advocacy piece written to support the regulation. This is a predictable result when an administration wants to implement a mandate at top speed. To promote objectivity, the law should require regulatory impact analysis and the analysis should be subject to judicial review, says Jerry Ellig, a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

The regulation on essential health benefits is a prime example of why such regulatory reform is needed.

  • In its analysis accompanying this regulation, HHS cites three studies that find health insurance contracts to be so complicated that consumers have trouble understanding them.
  • The logical solution, according to HHS, is to take away a lot of choices by requiring consumers to buy coverage they may not want.
  • As a result, teetotalers must belly up to the bar to pay for substance abuse treatment coverage.
  • Gay men may be unhappy to learn that their premiums are now higher to cover the costs of pregnancy and birth.
  • Empty nesters must spend some of their nest egg on pediatric dental coverage.
  • And people who rationally decided that mental health coverage wasn't worth the cost to them must now buy it anyway.


Given the current high-decibel legislative debate over ObamaCare, some objective information about the effects of the essential health services mandate could be just what the doctor ordered. But the current regulatory process produces no such elixir. The only way we'll see more objective regulatory analysis is if Congress prescribes it by reforming the regulatory process.

Source: Jerry Ellig, "Health Insurance Mandates Show Why Regulatory Reform Is Needed," McClatchy DC, October 22, 2013.

 

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