Explosive Growth in HHS Paperwork

Few agencies have undergone a radical transformation in the past eight years like the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the transformation of the nation’s health care system, HHS has gone from a minor regulatory player to the second most-burdensome regulator, measured by the amount of paperwork they pile on Americans, behind only the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

In 2008, HHS imposed roughly 412 million hours of paperwork, up sharply from 152 million hours in 1995. By 2016, however, with the help of hundreds of new ACA regulations, HHS’s paperwork burden has increased to roughly 700 million hours, an increase of more than 300 million hours since President Obama took office. To put 700 million hours of paperwork in context, it would take 354,500 employees working full-time in the private sector (2,000 hours annually) to complete a year of HHS paperwork. In addition to the revised cost burden, HHS has also requested to impose an additional 1.9 million paperwork hours due to the ACA.

These huge cost and paperwork figures do not just exist in the abstract. They are partly responsible for the countless forms patients must fill out in waiting areas and hospitals. These burdens are responsible for the millions of hours doctors spend complying with regulatory requirements, as opposed to patient care. In a decade, HHS has nearly doubled its paperwork burden and with the help of the ACA, there appears to be no end in sight.

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