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Attorney General Nessel Joins Coalition Opposing Dangerous HHS Deregulation by Trump Administration

LANSING — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of attorneys general today in submitting comments opposing the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) misguided proposal to automatically “sunset” any HHS regulation that the agency does not review within a short time frame. The rule is an unprecedented and dangerous attempt by the current Trump administration to impede the incoming Biden administration while the country grapples with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The rule impacts all 18,000 of HHS’s regulations, putting in jeopardy the department’s programs and services nationwide. Under the rule if not reviewed in the short time frame, these regulations could end, threatening critical programs like Medicaid, food safety, and medical and pharmaceutical research. The unlawful rule gives the agency just two years to review the regulations, unnecessarily hamstringing the incoming administration. 

“When it comes to our health care system, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services carries a great responsibility to regulate rules for Medicaid, HIPAA, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and so much more,” said Nessel. “This administration’s proposal to limit the amount of time the incoming administration has to review thousands of regulations is unprincipled, unnecessary and could have devastating effects for years to come. If enacted, this rule poses a threat to Michigan’s health care systems and the health and safety of our residents. And Michiganders — like millions of people across this nation – don’t deserve yet another threat to their health and well-being.” 

In today’s letter, the coalition of attorneys general argue this deregulation attempt by the Trump administration will mire HHS in red tape during a global pandemic when the country needs the agency’s resources most, making it nearly impossible for the new administration to enact new pandemic-related regulations. In addition, the drastic scope of the rule will jeopardize trillions of dollars in federal funding on which the states rely. 

The coalition argues the proposed rule: 

  • Is unprecedented and dramatic in scope and poses a threat to the states’ health care systems and as a result, the health and safety of residents; 
  • Is legally questionable since it claims to implement the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), which Congress enacted to minimize the impact regulations have on small entities with limited resources. Instead, the rule would add expiration dates to all 18,000 HHS regulations. Further, HHS lacks the legal authority for such action; 
  • Will drain agency resources and create significant uncertainty for state programs that would have to deal with the consequences if the federal regulations they rely on suddenly expired; and 
  • Is deeply problematic given it was proposed just a month before a new president takes office and while the country continues to weather the pandemic, and gives the public only 30 days to comment, despite its impact on thousands of regulations.  

In submitting today’s comment letter, Attorney General Nessel joined the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. 

A copy of the comment letter is available here.