HHS wants to review most of its existing regulations and sunset burdensome, obsolete rules

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A proposed HHS rule would install a sweeping review of more than 2,000 existing agency regulations. (Sarah Stierch/CC BY 4.0)

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a proposed rule Wednesday to undertake a retrospective review of older regulations to ensure they are making an appropriate impact or are no longer needed.

The notice of proposed rulemaking would require HHS to assess its regulations every decade and determine if they are subject to review through the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which requires the federal government to review certain significant regulations.

“This proposal—the boldest and most significant regulatory reform effort ever undertaken by HHS—would sunset burdensome regulations unless their necessity is publicly demonstrated to the American people,” said HHS Chief of Staff Brian Harrison in a statement on Wednesday.

Any regulation issued by HHS would cease to be effective ten years after it was issued unless HHS performs a “plenary assessment” of the regulation and a more detailed review of regulations that have an economic impact on a small number of entities, the agency’s release said.

The rule would apply to all HHS regulations with a couple of exceptions: rules that are jointly issued with other agencies, regulations issued for a military or foreign affairs function or rules solely on personnel matters.

If finalized, the rule would also apply to a lot of agency regulations.

“An artificial-intelligence-driven data analysis of HHS regulations found that 85% of department regulations created before 1990 have not been edited,” HHS said.

HHS will have two years to review any rules that are more than 10 years old. This would be a lot of rules, as HHS estimates that roughly 2,480 rulemakings would need to be reviewed during the two-year window.

Any rule that does not get reviewed will expire.

In addition, if a review determines that a regulation should be amended or rescinded, then HHS could on a case-by-case basis not enforce the regulation until that action is taken.

“The proposed rule specifically asks for input on what procedures would make the most sense in these situations,” a release on the rule said.

HHS also referenced that it suspended numerous regulations since the onset of the pandemic, including rules that govern the use of telemedicine.