GOP lawmakers criticize HHS for issuing bulletin
Republican lawmakers chided HHS for a lack of transparency in the department’s December bulletin about essential health benefits under the healthcare reform law. HHS said in the guidance that states could develop their own packages of services that insurers must cover—as long as any plan chosen by a state covers 10 required categories of care. The bulletin was intended to garner feedback from the public. “By issuing a ‘bulletin’ rather than a proposed rule, the administration has sidestepped the requirement to publish a cost-benefit analysis estimating the impact these mandates will have on health insurance premiums and the increased costs to the federal government,” according to a Jan. 13 letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-mich.); House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-minn.); House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-mich.); Sen. Michael Enzi (R-wyo.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-utah). The lawmakers said HHS also avoided publishing regulatory alternatives and information about unfunded mandates placed on states and the private sector, both required under the rulemaking process. The letter, among other requests, asks Sebelius to provide a legal rationale and precedents for the move. An HHS official said in an e-mail last month that the department plans to follow the traditional rulemaking process for essential benefits.