Red tape relief? There's a chance it might actually happen

John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Here we go again. Another President-elect is promising to trim the red tape. Will it be different this time? Believe it or not, there's a chance.

President-elect Donald Trump is certainly saying things that should enthuse long-term care operators. On the campaign trail, he proposed a 10% reduction in new regulations. He was even quoted as saying “70 percent of regulations can go.”

Unfortunately, he's also been known to change his mind. And to be blunt, he may not realize what he's actually up against. So what's it going to be over the next four years: more empty rhetoric or a promise finally kept?

It's far too early to tell, but some promising early signs are emerging. Last week, a letter from House Republicans asked government agencies to take a regulation-publishing break until Trump takes office. House members are also crafting legislation to prohibit so-called midnight regulations while President Obama remains in office. It's a start.

Regulatory concern knows no boundaries among business leaders. In a Deloitte survey, chief financial officers cited new regulation as their No. 2 business threat (tailing only concerns of a possible recession).

To be clear, it would be silly to suggest that all regulations targeting post-acute care be eliminated. This is, after all, a mostly publicly financed business that annually delivers care to roughly a million-and-a-half very sick people. And as Google reminds us nearly every week, it's hardly immune from operators who seem to have more larceny than compassion in their hearts.

But you hardly need to be an industry apologist to realize that things are a bit overboard. The thousands of pages of rules this industry must deal with are riddled with inconsistencies, redundancies and dubious directives. Moreover, many are more applicable to convalescent- than post-acute care.

Yet they remain, while more pile up. According to the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, 560 regulations with an economic impact exceeding $100 million were published during the first seven years of the Obama administration. It's a safe bet that more have found their way into the Federal Register since January. This during an administration that promised to, ahem, cut red tape? But Obama's hardly the first to fail in this effort. In fact, there is a long tradition of Oval Office occupants finding they can't reverse the tide.

Like those before him, Trump is likely to learn that the existing rulemaking machinery is far better suited to expansion than reduction. He may also discover that other priorities are more worthy of whatever political capital he has to spend.

So good luck, Mr. President-elect. We know what you want to do. But are you willing to actually do it? We'll soon find out.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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