Health Care Thoughts: Regulatory Bumbling

by Tom aka Rusty Rustbelt

Health Care Thoughts: Regulatory Bumbling

The people who daily manage health care services (and their advisers) have been shocked at the inability of the Obama administration to manage the administrative regs roll out process. The 2009 stimulus act contained multi-year funding for adopting electronic medical records (EMR/EHR) systems.

The funding required “meaningful use” and the published regulations were and are nearly incomprehensible, especially at the physician practice level. EMR/EHRs are making progress but it is largely due to the integration of physician practices into integrated delivery systems.

 Then there is PPACA. The first major regulatory effort were the SSP accountable care organization (ACO) regulations, and that was a disaster. Even the administration’s allies ran for the hills. The administration has spent the last half of 2011 creating new ACO sub programs and revising regulations, and has finally convinced some providers to jump on board the pioneer ACO program.
(Some of the desired innovation and integration is happening, but it is being pushed by fear of the future economics of health care rather than directly by PPACA.) .

 The C.L.A.S.S. long-term care financing program died in its crib. Early on Secretary Sebelius announced the program was not financially viable, and got into a shouting match with Congressional Democrats when she announced she could change the program without Congress changing the empowering statute. There were attempts at CPR, but the program now appears to be really dead.

 The most recent botch (already mentioned in an earlier post here) are the “essential benefits” regulations. As described in WAPO (12/16) the administration punted the decisions to the states. Depending on your perspective, this could be seen as “flexibility” or seen as “surrender.” We are still digesting these rules (it occurs to me multi state employers are going to freak on this). The 2200 pages of PPACA will be backed by many thousands of pages of administrative law.

At the provider and insurer level these regulations are the real meat of the act. A smooth roll out would certainly make PPACA more valuable. Lawyers specializing in health care administrative law are delighted. Consultants and writers are happy as well (I plead guilty). Tom aka Rusty Rustbelt