Committee Raises Questions about Secretary Sebelius' Role in End-of-Life Planning Regulations

March 15, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to examine an end-of-life planning provision included in a Medicare regulation last fall.  The regulations were subsequently removed from the final rule after their existence was revealed.  On March 3, 2011, Sebelius admitted to publishing this regulation without notice or public comment.

"As The New York Times explained on January 4, 2011, the inclusion of this regulation was clearly an attempt to subvert the democratic process," wrote the leaders. "We are very disturbed by your actions.  It is clear that end-of-life regulations would not be able to make it through Congress, nor survive a public debate during the rulemaking process, and were thus somehow dropped into the final regulation without allowing the public any opportunity to comment.  The secrecy surrounding their inclusion in the final rule indicates that this was a political maneuver designed to avoid public scrutiny and comment."

The members are requesting a briefing from HHS regarding how the provisions came to be included in the final rule, despite having been left out of earlier drafts submitted for public comment.

"We hope to learn what the Department's internal discussions were regarding this provision, and to learn how the proposal was surreptitiously inserted and what can be done in the future to guarantee that the administration will not attempt to usurp Congressional prerogatives," concluded the committee leaders.

Click HERE to view full text of the letter.

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