Membership of HHS Advisory Committee on Regulatory “Reform” Sets Off Alarms Among Patient and Consumer Organizations

March 7, 2002

Membership of HHS Advisory Committee on Regulatory “Reform” Sets Off Alarms Among Patient and Consumer Organizations

Committee Members Are Almost Exclusively From Industry, Mission Is to Target Regulations That the Health Care Industry Finds Burdensome

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? A new advisory committee formed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) almost completely excludes patients and consumers, and is designed to eliminate or ease regulations that the health care industry finds burdensome, a coalition of concerned patient and consumer organizations said in a letter this week.

The letter, sent to advisory committee Chairman Douglas L. Wood, M.D., expressed grave concern about the mission and one-sided membership of the Advisory Committee on Regulatory Reform, created in December and designed to further a department goal to “reduce regulatory burdens in health care.” The 27-member committee is charged with identifying and prioritizing regulations for reform and recommending improvements to regulatory “barriers.”

The committee is composed almost exclusively of representatives of the health care industry. According to the letter, of the committee?s 27 members, 22 come directly from the health care industry, three come from government, one is a former CEO of Delta Dental Plan of California and current member of the AARP?s board of directors, and one is the chairman of the board for the Seniors Coalition, a conservative group that represents the elderly. Despite its innocuous name, however, the Seniors Coalition was singled out as a “particularly egregious” group by a 1992 House Ways and Means Committee report on deceptive mailings.

Nothing in the committee?s mission mentions aiding patients; the goal appears to be the easing of rules for hospitals and insurance companies. The absence of voices on the committee “to speak on behalf of persons with disabilities, low-income persons, nursing home patients, immigrants, users of community health centers and others” is especially troublesome, the coalition letter said.

Moreover, the “repeated emphasis on regulatory ?reform? and the composition of the committee gives the appearance that the committee is nothing more than a tool by which HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson hopes to legitimize regulatory rollbacks advocated by the health care industry and endorsed by the current Administration,” the letter said.

In addition to Public Citizen, the groups signing the letter include: The Arc of the United States, CFIDS Association of America, Center on Disability and Health, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., Gray Panthers, International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Workers of America (UAW), National Partnership for Women & Families, National Senior Citizens Law Center, and United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.

Click here for a copy of the letter.

For more information about the Advisory Committee on Regulatory Reform, including its membership and schedule, click here.

###