HHS's New Powers Under Health Care "Reform"

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on November 30, 2009

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They are tremendously expansive:

For instance, on Page 122 of the 2,079-page bill, the secretary is given the power to establish “the basic per enrollee, per month cost, determined on average actuarial basis, for including coverage under a qualified health care plan.”

The HHS secretary would also have the power to decide where abortion is allowed under a government-run plan, which has drawn opposition from Republicans and some moderate Democrats.

And the bill even empowers the department to establish a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation that would have the authority to make cost-saving cuts without having to get the approval of Congress first.

“It’s a huge amount of power being shifted to HHS, and much of it is highly discretionary,” said Edmund Haislmaier, an expert in health care policy and insurance markets at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Haislmaier said one the greatest powers HHS would gain from the bill is the authority to regulate insurance. States currently hold this power, and under the Senate bill, the federal government would usurp it from them. This could lead to the federal government putting restrictions and changes in place that destabilize the private insurance market by forcing companies to lower premiums and other charges, he said.

Of course, there is a problem with all of this:

“Health and Human Services … doesn’t have any experience with this,” Haislmaier said. “I’m looking at the potential for this whole thing to just blow up on people because they have no idea what they are doing. Who in the federal government regulates insurance today? Nobody.”

Raise your hand if you are worried. And know that my hand is raised. In fact, I just raised both of them.

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