Critics say missed deadlines and other signs show the Obama administration is stumbling out of the gate on its early steps to implement the president’s health-care law.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has already missed as many as four deadlines under the law – not on any major regulations — but still a worrying trend, critics say.
Congressional staff and industry representatives have also been asking HHS for a timeline specifying when it will issue the numerous regulations required by the law. They were shocked to find the agency has not produced such a document, one aide said.
The issue is important because vast industry sectors are trying to plan their own implementations of the health-care law and most of the details remain in bureaucrats’ hands, leaving a vacuum of uncertainty about the final burdens the law will impose.
The missed deadlines include creating task forces on breast cancer and Alaskan health care, publishing a list of new authorities granted under the law, and setting a schedule for a Government Accountability Office study and financial audit.
HHS spokeswoman Jessica Santillo noted the administration had already implemented numerous parts of the health care law in advance of deadlines.
“HHS has been working to get the benefits of the new law to the American people as quickly as possible which is why several important benefits are taking effect well in advance of their deadlines, such as ending the practice of rescinding coverage of Americans who get sick, and allowing young adults under 26 to stay on their parents coverage,” Santillo said.
She defended the administration’s approach on one of the missed deadlines – a requirement under the health-care law that HHS publish “a list of all of the authorities provided to the secretary under this act” on its website.
Santillo pointed The Daily Caller to a page listing the names of sections in the law, such as “Sec. 1562. Conforming amendments.”
Republican critics say the list, which links to parts of the actual bill text, doesn’t meet the letter or spirit of the law’s requirement, which is included in a section of the law titled, “Transparency in government.”
“Now it looks like the simplest job assigned to the Obama administration – outlining its own new authorities and responsibilities — was so daunting that HHS decided just to reprint the table of contents from the new law until they can sort things out,” said Lisa Miller, a spokeswoman for Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, a key Republican on health-care issues. “It’s troubling because, if they can’t even explain what they are supposed to do, how do we expect them to actually manage a sixth of the economy?”
While missing the deadlines, the administration has found time to send promotional material touting the law’s benefit, including a brochure for senior citizens and post cards from the IRS advertising tax breaks under the law.
The brochure for seniors may improve the law’s perception among lawmakers – the 111th Congress is the oldest in history by average age – but it is not assuaging some Republicans who call it propaganda.