HHS withdraws controversial Trump-era sunset rule that required review of all regulations

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has withdrawn a controversial Trump-era rule that would have required the agency to do a massive review of its existing regulations. 

HHS issued a final rule Thursday that would get rid of the sunset rule passed at the tail end of the Trump administration. The agency said the rule’s requirements for reviewing existing agency regulations to keep them up to date created major burdens on staff and the industry.

“The SUNSET final rule is expansive in scope and impact, faced considerable opposition from stakeholders (and very little support), and lacked a public health or welfare rationale for expediting rulemaking,” HHS said in its notice withdrawing the rule. 

The rule, which was finalized by HHS a day before President Joe Biden was inaugurated last year, would have required HHS to look at every rule to determine whether it was still applicable. Any rule not reviewed within five years would be pulled completely. 

While the Trump administration charged that the rule would help get rid of unfair regulations, its successors at HHS said its requirements were completely unworkable and burdensome. 

“We now conclude that the sunset final rule likely underestimated to a significant degree the resources needed for the required undertaking,” HHS said Thursday. “In particular, because the implementation of the sunset final rule would have required a significant expenditure of resources, the department would have been forced to make resource allocation decisions that would have impeded the department’s routine operations and hampered its ability to carry out other key priorities and goals.”

HHS estimated that withdrawing the rule will save the agency nearly $70 million over the next 10 years. Several healthcare groups also sued HHS over the sunset rule, which they charge was hastily finalized.