December 28, 2020

HHS Announces Policy to Increase Transparency

HHS Announces Policy to Increase Transparency

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a policy to enhance transparency at HHS. The new policy will require all assumptions, working papers, models, and other information used as part of any impact analysis associated with a rule or demonstration project that is shared at the time of the results of the analysis to be publicly disclosed. 

“We are providing needed transparency by requiring the Department to show its math so the American people can know and challenge the methods government uses to calculate effects of regulations it imposes on them,” said HHS Chief of Staff Brian Harrison. The purpose of the policy is to provide the public with more insight into regulations the government seeks to execute.

“The department's regulations and demonstration projects involving federal health care programs, the Affordable Care Act; the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; or the Public Health Service Act are amongst the most economically significant actions undertaken by any federal agency,” wrote HHS Secretary Alex Azar, in the Federal Register notice. “The department believes that its decision-making ought to be as transparent as appropriate to better enable the citizenry to comment on its proposed rules and demonstration projects.” 

After November 30, 2020, all HHS agencies and offices which issue analyses must post for public viewing on the Department's website all data and assumptions underlying the analysis, including all working papers, calculations, references, and other information necessary to allow a third-party to replicate the agency's analytic work. 

Some feel as though this policy is politically motivated. Jane Goodwin senior policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform who specialized in regulations, told Government Executive “There is no question that is meant as a political landmine that they’re leaving behind.” Additionally, even if all the information is released, “that doesn’t necessarily mean that these analyses are going to be transparent,” Goodwin stated. “They are dense, difficult documents to read and that’s sort of a different kind of transparency.” Margaret Foster Riley, a law professor at the University of Virginia who specializes in public health law among other areas, also told Government Executive, the new policy “weaponizes seemingly benign transparency requirements for a deregulatory effect, by limiting the type of information the agency can use and thereby limiting agency discretion.”