HHS’ Massive Review of Rules and Regulations

Does the title of this post make anyone else cringe? It sounds like government at its best (or worst depending on how you want to look at it) to me. I remember when I once heard the famous investor, Carl Icahn, talk about he could go into any company slash the staffing and maintain the same productivity. His point being that so many larger companies have a lot of people who don’t produce much value. Government is very similar in people and rules and regulations. However, they don’t get someone like Icahn who comes in and cuts out those that aren’t producing.

You’d think with this analysis that I’d then be excited about the massive Review of Rules and Regulations that HHS is undertaking as reported on in this article by Health Leaders Media. I do think that it’s good to do reviews and trim down regulations. My problem is that I’ve rarely seen someone in government do a review which ended up with stuff chopped out.

I’m not completely blaming HHS and the people that work there. The ones that I’ve met personally have been incredibly bright and thoughtful individuals. They hate all the red tap as much as the rest of us. The problem is that in many ways they’re tied in what they can actually do. Part of it is politics. Part of it is legislative requirements that are handed down to them.

I think the best indication that this massive review of rules and regulations isn’t going to yield the tens of millions of hours and billions of dollars in costs savings is the 89-page “Preliminary Plan for Retrospective Review” (PDF) that was released by HHS. A mere 89 page document to propose the preliminary plan for review (that’s sarcasm for those that missed it). I can’t help but wonder how many pages of additional documentation will be produced from this review. Maybe we should ask that they eliminate 1 page of regulation for every page of review that they produce. Then, we might yield some interesting results.

I know I’ve been gaining a much larger understanding of the regulation and rule making process thanks to the HITECH act. Considering the large effort that many people have put into that process, it makes me wonder what types of results a review of the HITECH regulations and rules would actually produce. Needless to say I’m skeptical of the benefits.

Reminds me of what my friend who works for the US government told me: “Am I doing something that’s important and valuable? Absolutely! Could it be done for about half the cost? Definitely.” Too bad we don’t have Icahn like take over of government that could easily cut out the waste in government.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Federal agencies, unlike the private sector, have a large number of folks looking at their operations. Inspector Generals, GAO, congressional committees. They also have transparency requirements for budgets, programs, staffing, rule making. FOIA is used by citizens, lobby groups, industry as well.

    As for an Ichan, there have been several commissions going back 80 years that have concentrated on government services with mixed results. Are federal agencies as efficient as they could be? No, but then is Exxon? Given trying to look into the feds or Exxon, which one will prove easier to dissect?

  • Carl,
    Interesting thought about the number of bodies that “watches over” the government. Although, even the government doesn’t have as much disclosure of their financials as a publicly traded company.

    Exxon at least balances their budget. In fact, they’re turning profits over left and right. Can’t say the same for the government despite a built in revenue stream called taxes.

  • John,

    GAO produces a balance sheet for the federal government. Though corporate audits are far more independent since Enron, the auditors are selected and paid by the companies.

    The federal government does not have a separate capital budget. State governments, private corps have bond issues for specific purposes. The fed gov does not have aircraft carrier bonds, etc. A large part of the fed debt is not due to expenses, but covers liabilities for veterans benefits, etc. The deficit also does not net out assets such as property, military systems, etc. I don’t think its a perfect system, but I do believe the federal government’s finances and operations are more open to review than most large corporations.

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