Due to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has undergone radical changes in a relatively short period of time.
Measuring by the amount of paperwork imposed, HHS comes second to the IRS as the most burdensome federal agency, according to an American Action Forum report.
“We’ve been tracking paperwork for the past few years, and I don’t think that it was any surprise that the ACA was going to lead to significant growth or expansion HHS’s power and its authority to impose record-keeping requirements,” Sam Batkins, director of regulatory policy for the American Action Forum, recently told Patient Daily. “But you realize that we’ve gone from roughly 400 million hours of paperwork in HHS back in 2008 until now -- roughly 700 million hours today.”
Batkins said although he expected to see more paperwork pile on due to the ACA, what he found most surprising is the sheer number of forms HHS has seen. More paperwork translates into more hours of work and, more importantly, more money.
The report estimates that 700 million hours are spent each year filling out forms, with the annual cost to the economy sitting at roughly $23.1 billion.
“For perspective, the Clean Power Plan has gotten a lot of publicity in the regulatory world,” Batkins said. “That costs roughly $8 billion. So HHS’s annual imposition just in paperwork and reporting is three times of what the entire Clean Power Plan is. So that sort of I think puts things in context.”
Some believe the Obama administration has downplayed criticism of the ACA’s impact on the economy and has emphasized job growth instead increasing costs associated with the ACA.
“Everyone bears the burden: whenever we talk about regulatory burdens, the cost coming out, I think they are generally the costs falling on a particular business, a company or doctor that has regulatory burdens imposed on them,” Batkins said. “But the federal government can choose to either pass that cost on to consumers or take that cost on their bottom line, in which case that affects shareholders; or deal with the matter internally, which affects employers, employer pay and even the number of employees.”
Unfortunately, he believes ACA regulations suggest the agency will pass the costs onto consumers, which means premiums will likely rise.
“They are going to pay more either through their premiums, or higher deductibles, or higher maximum out of pocket, or going to pay the amount in the time it takes to fill all of this out, which obviously has a monetary value,” Batkins said.
The ACA has been a topic of great debate since it was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010.
Republicans largely oppose the ACA. Promises to repeal the act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare, have been a common theme along the GOP presidential campaign trail. In January, Republicans in the House and Senate sent a bill to the White House repealing the majority of Obamacare, but Obama vetoed the bill, as expected. Still, Republican legislators are hopeful the act will be repealed when a new president takes office next January.