NRF Warns of ‘Regulatory Train Wreck’ with Health Care Regulations

NRF Warns of ‘Regulatory Train Wreck’ with Health Care Regulations

<0> National Retail FederationJ. Craig Shearman, 202-626-8134 </0>

The National Retail Federation told a congressional panel today that the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury have used too much informal guidance and not enough formal rulemaking in developing regulations to implement the new health care reform law, complicating retailers’ and other employers’ ability to plan for what will be required in 2014. NRF is concerned that the situation is the latest example of regulatory uncertainty that is hampering businesses’ attempts to expand and create jobs.

“Our nation cannot afford for the ACA to stumble out of the starting gate,” NRF Vice President and Employee Benefits Policy Counsel Neil Trautwein said. “A cascade of last-minute regulations will create confusion and thus could encourage more employers to back out of coverage. We are trying to help prevent what threatens to become a regulatory train wreck.”

Trautwein is scheduled to testify at a hearing being held this afternoon by the House Ways and Means Committee’s Health Subcommittee on implementation of health care exchanges and other provisions that will be required under the Affordable Care Act beginning in January 2014.

Trautwein said retailers typically plan health care benefits for their employees six to nine months in advance, meaning that details of the 2014 requirements need to be known no later than the end of the first quarter of 2013. Retailers would like to have regulations in place this year, and are “greatly concerned” that “fast-approaching deadlines for key issues” might not be met.

Federal agencies have been “working hard and fairly cooperatively” with business groups, Trautwein said. But rather than issuing formal proposed rules and seeking comments as is normally done under the Administrative Procedures Act, the Administration has issued bulletins, guidance and frequently-asked-questions documents that are welcome but do not “make up for the lack of good and fair regulations,” he said.

NRF is concerned that the lack of formal regulations is slowing down creation of health care exchanges, which would be established in each state as a new marketplace for health care coverage. In particular, the basic level of coverage that would be required in policies offered through the exchanges and small group plans has yet to be determined because HHS has not yet said what will be included in the “essential health benefits” package required by the law.

NRF has backed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, arguing that it emphasizes mandates that drive up costs for employers more than steps to make health care more affordable. In the meantime, however, NRF has encouraged “fair and effective” implementation of the law, and has worked with its member companies and a wide variety of coalitions on compliance. The complexity of the law and the number of coalitions focused on varies issues led NRF to form the Employers Health Care Clearinghouse to coordinate the work of the groups.

As the world’s largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. Retailers operate more than 3.6 million U.S. establishments that support one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.5 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s campaign emphasizes the economic importance of retail and encourages policymakers to support a aimed at boosting economic growth and job creation.