Death by paperwork
On July 3, when Americans were preparing to celebrate freedom, the Obama administration reduced freedom by adding another 1,296 pages of regulations to Obamacare. The burdensome rules were published in the Federal Register on the eve of Independence Day, when few were likely to be watching. So much for transparency.
Obamacare regulations compel doctors and their office staff, restaurateurs, business owners, local government officials and others to spend hours filling out paperwork without getting paid for it. It’s a colossal theft. As of 2014, Obamacare regulations impose 159 million hours of paperwork a year on the public, an increase of 48 million over last year. And there’s more to come. These figures don’t include the paperwork requirements of the law’s employer mandate, which has yet to go into effect.
Among the July 3 rules is one that compels doctors who take Medicare to report 18 different clinical measurements for each senior they treat. Doctors who fail to do this will get whacked with lower payments starting in 2015. The regulators estimate that it could take as long as 108 minutes per patient to make the annual report, and overall, doctors and their office staff will have to devote about 5.4 million hours a year nationwide to completing these reports. That’s time that could be spent treating patients, calling them to remind them to take their meds, or following up on their care. Instead, the labor is being confiscated by the federal bureaucracy to serve its own ends.
The regulations are also robbing patients of what they need from their doctors. For example, an elderly woman goes to the doctor with a wrist fracture or shingles. She happens to be overweight. Under the Physician Quality Reporting System regulations published July 3, to avoid a penalty her doctor may feel pressured to discuss weight loss in order to check that box rather than focusing on the pressing issue that brought her there.
Doctors and patients feel the brunt, but business owners are also reeling with the paperwork costs. Any business owner knows that when the mail arrives with several envelopes from the government, you’ve lost another day’s productivity to paperwork. Restaurant owners face 622,000 hours of work to comply with menu labeling rules imposed by Obamacare. Their labor, too, is literally being confiscated.
The American Action Forum, a public policy organization, notes that Obamacare is in a class by itself, imposing almost three times as much paperwork as Dodd Frank financial regulations, and more than 10 times as much paperwork as Sarbanes-Oxley, financial reform legislation. The Department of Health and Human Services is the biggest culprit. It’s responsible for 90 million hours a year of Obamacare paperwork chores foisted on the American people. The U.S. Treasury, which includes the IRS, has increased its paperwork burden on the public by 23 percent because of Obamacare.
On July 4, 1776, when American patriots signed their Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, they recounted the crimes of the tyrannical British king: “He has erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.” Two centuries later, our own government is suffocating us with mandatory paperwork.
That’s even before considering how this increase in government regulation impedes business decision-making, hiring, expansion and innovation. According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, the United States is the only country to have lost economic freedom for seven straight years, now ranking 12th in the world behind Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and eight other nations. “Burdensome and redundant regulations are the most common barriers to the free conduct of entrepreneurial activity,” Heritage cautions.
But insidiously, there are those who benefit from this out-of-control regulatory state. “Government bureaucracies like complexity because it keeps them busy and funded,” warns Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard. She laments, “as a result of these regulations on steroids, innovation, business creation and job growth are being stifled.”
In the end, only an outraged public can put a stop to this regulatory oppression.