There Are More Than 100 Errors in the Obamacare Regulations

A conservative group cites errors in regulatory language ranging from typos to misstatements.

Affordable Care Act navigator Nini Hadwen, right, speaks with Jorge Hernandez, left, and Marta Aguirre as they shop for health insurance during a navigation session put on by the Epilepsy Foundation Florida to help people sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act on October 8, 2013 in Miami, Florida. The United States government continues to be partially shut down as Republicans hold out hope to cut funding for the Affordable Care Act. 
National Journal
Sam Baker
Nov. 12, 2013, 3:59 p.m.

From in­noc­u­ous ty­pos to sub­stant­ive mis­state­ments of policy, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has had to cor­rect more than 100 er­rors in the reg­u­la­tions used to im­ple­ment its sig­na­ture health care law.

One reg­u­la­tion said cer­tain delays were “reas­on­able,” when it meant “un­reas­on­able.” An­oth­er im­plied that health care “nav­ig­at­ors” would have to be li­censed in­sur­ance agents, when in fact agents are pro­hib­ited from be­com­ing nav­ig­at­ors. Em­ploy­ers were switched with em­ploy­ees, and man­dates were presen­ted as op­tions.

Mis­takes are in­ev­it­able in the reg­u­lat­ory pro­cess, and the vast ma­jor­ity of er­rors in Obama­care reg­u­la­tions are garden-vari­ety tech­nic­al­it­ies — ref­er­ences to the wrong sec­tion of a law, ty­pos, or minor cla­ri­fic­a­tions.

But over­all, the health care law is rack­ing up more reg­u­lat­ory cor­rec­tions than oth­er large, com­plex meas­ures. Ac­cord­ing to an ana­lys­is from the Amer­ic­an Ac­tion For­um, a con­ser­vat­ive think tank, reg­u­lat­ors have is­sued 33 sets of cor­rec­tions for the 104 pub­lished Obama­care reg­u­la­tions. All told, agen­cies have had to fix 254 er­rors, ac­cord­ing to AAF.

The AAF coun­ted 136 pages of reg­u­la­tions that simply cor­rect er­rors in oth­er reg­u­la­tions.

Those num­bers are prob­ably a bit too high — they in­clude a hand­ful of Medi­care reg­u­la­tions that have only a small Obama­care com­pon­ent.

Even so, there are more er­rors in the Obama­care im­ple­ment­a­tion pro­cess than in the reg­u­la­tions car­ry­ing out the sim­il­arly com­plex Dodd-Frank law, ac­cord­ing to AAF.

With 104 reg­u­la­tions and 33 “cor­rect­ive doc­u­ments” (many doc­u­ments con­tain mul­tiple cor­rec­tions), Obama­care im­ple­ment­a­tion has an er­ror rate of about 32 per­cent, by AAF’s cal­cu­la­tions. Us­ing the same for­mula, the think tank said Dodd-Frank im­ple­ment­a­tion has an er­ror rate lower than 10 per­cent.

Sam Batkins, AAF’s dir­ect­or of reg­u­lat­ory policy, said the num­ber of er­rors seems like a sign that the im­ple­ment­a­tion pro­cess was hur­ried — a charge crit­ics have leveled be­fore, not­ing that the White House held off on key reg­u­la­tions un­til after the 2012 elec­tion, then turned ma­jor rules around as quickly as pos­sible.

“They do some­times ap­pear to be rushed,” Batkins said.

A spokes­wo­man for the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment about the er­ror rates.

Most of the re­vi­sions AAF tracked are minor and in line with the sort of tech­nic­al cor­rec­tions pub­lished in the Fed­er­al Re­gister every day. By far the most com­mon changes are ed­ited ref­er­ences to a spe­cif­ic stat­ute or sub­sec­tion of a reg­u­la­tion — chan­ging “§ 101.10(b)(2)(ii)(A)” to “§ 101.11(b)(2)(iii)(A),” for ex­ample.

The people who ac­tu­ally read reg­u­la­tions in that level of de­tail are used to those kinds of mis­takes. But pile up too many of them in reg­u­la­tions that also deal with ma­jor ques­tions of policy, and the lack of clar­ity can take a toll on stake­hold­ers, Batkins said.

“I can only ima­gine, just giv­en the gen­er­al volume “¦ I can’t ima­gine that makes it easy,” he said.

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