The Health and Human Services Department has withdrawn a policy initiated under President Donald Trump that would have required extensive reviews of its regulations.
Under the SUNSET rule, nearly all HHS regulations would be scrutinized for economic impact and other factors after 10 years, and automatically eliminated if they were not reviewed within that time frame.
President Joe Biden’s administration formally canceled this policy in a rule issued Thursday. The SUNSET rule would have substantially altered HHS operations and had negative consequences for people affected by departmental regulations, HHS announced in a Federal Register notice.
“We now conclude that these significant repercussions were not adequately considered in issuing the SUNSET final rule in part because the process to promulgate the rule was extremely unusual,” the final rule says.
HHS finalized the SUNSET rule shortly before Trump left office in January 2021, and the policy was slated to go into effect in March 2021. But several organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the regulation, prompting the Biden administration to delay its implementation.
The department proposed withdrawing the rule last October, but later postponed its start date until this coming September.
Now, the rule will not go into effect at all. HHS decided the policy prioritized regulatory review over other operations, and violated the Administrative Procedure Act, according to the Federal Register notice.
“The policy ramifications and legal defects of the expiration provision call the entire rulemaking into question,” the rule says.
The American Lung Association, a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the rule, applauded the Biden administration’s action. “Having a common nationwide set of rules is important,” said Erika Sward, national assistant vice president of advocacy. “We need rules and regulations out of HHS, to ensure that everybody knows what the rules are and that everybody’s playing by them.”
Other healthcare groups cheered the final rule as well, including the Medical Group Management Association. The MGMA is “relieved that HHS moved forward with withdrawing the SUNSET rule. The rule would have potentially caused disruption and chaos across the board,” Claire Ernst, director of government affairs, wrote in an email.
The lawsuit filed last year claimed more than 17,000 rules could have disappeared by 2026 under the SUNSET rule.
HHS estimated that eliminating the policy could save the department up to $75.5 million a year.