by Betsy McCaughey
On July 3, with Americans preparing to celebrate freedom, the Obama administration reduced freedom by adding 1,296 pages of new regulations to ObamaCare.
It was a classic pre-holiday document dump, publishing the mind-numbing rules 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, business owners, local officials and virtually everyone else subject to the law to spend hours filling out paperwork with no pay for their labor. It’s a colossal theft.
Now four years old, ObamaCare imposes 159 million hours of paperwork a year on the public. That’s the administration’s own estimate, undoubtedly a lowball.
Even so, it’s up by 48 million hours over last year, when fewer regulations had been rolled out. And there’s more to come.
Among the July 3 rules is one that compels doctors who take Medicare to report 18 different clinical measurements on their patients, such as whether they are overweight and have been counseled about weight control.
Doctors who fail to do it will get whacked with lower payments starting in 2015.
The regulators estimate that this single report could take as long as 108 minutes per patient and consume 5.4 million hours a year nationwide. That’s time that could be spent treating patients or calling them to remind them to take their meds.
Instead, the federal bureaucracy is confiscating those hours to serve its own ends.
Small-business owners get hit hard, too. Notably, restaurateurs face 622,000 hours of work to comply with ObamaCare’s menu-labeling rules.
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 the notoriously complex Dodd-Frank financial regulations, and more than 10 times as much as under the Sarbanes-Oxley financial-reform law.
The Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, is the biggest culprit, responsible for 90 million hours a year of ObamaCare paperwork chores. Most are foisted on hospitals, doctors, insurers and local governments.
Because it includes the IRS, Treasury is the No. 2 culprit, with paperwork requirements up 23 percent this year. The IRS is ObamaCare’s chief enforcer; paperwork misery will continue to soar, especially if and when the employer mandate goes into effect.
ObamaCare gives the IRS 46 new functions, including collecting new taxes and exchanging information about you, your family and your income with HHS and state insurance exchanges.
For example, the IRS requires employers to report the value of insurance you get through work in a new box on your W-2, even though it’s not taxable (yet).
And dealing with the IRS is no longer a once-a-year affair. Have a baby, change jobs or get a divorce, and the IRS will be recalculating your insurance compliance and eligibility for premium subsidies.
“It’s unprecedented in recent history, the amount of responsibility the IRS is being given in an area that most people don’t think of as an IRS function,” J. Russell George, a tax official, told Congress last March.
The administration plainly doesn’t want to tell the truth about these burdens.
For example, it claims that people who are uninsured or lose coverage will spend 12.6 minutes a year to comply with the individual mandate. Preposterous: Even when the Web sites work, it takes far longer to shop for insurance and report to the IRS that you’re compliant.
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.”
Nearly 2½ centuries later, our own government is eating out our substance with mandatory paperwork.
Not to mention the drag on our economy.
According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, America is the only country to have lost economic freedom for seven straight years, now ranking 12th behind Hong Kong,
Singapore, Australia, Canada and seven other nations.
“Burdensome and redundant regulations are the most common barriers to the free conduct of entrepreneurial activity,” Heritage cautions.
But some 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 that “as a result of these regulations on steroids, innovation, business creation and job growth are being stifled.”
Government bureaucrats are stealing our time, our economic growth and our liberty. Don’t count on Washington to fix the problem.
In the end, only an outraged public can put a stop to this regulatory oppression.