Racing for Regulatory Gold

By Hinkle, A. Barton | Regulation, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Racing for Regulatory Gold


Hinkle, A. Barton, Regulation


Speaking before a joint session of Congress a while back, President Obama generously conceded that some rules and regulations ... put an unnecessary burden on businesses." But, he insisted, "We shouldn't be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards." Regulation-wise, he said, "America should be in a race to the top. And I believe that's a race we can win."

The president is right. There's no reason America cannot out-regulate the rest of the world if we all put our shoulders to the wheel and our noses to the grindstone.

The global competition is intense, but the United States is no slouch in the regulatory Olympics. And the current administration has been doing its part in the quest for the gold. Consider this gem courtesy of the Affordable Care Act:

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have been putting the finishing touches on the ICD-10, a new coding system for medical billing. Unlike the shockingly inadequate ICD-9, which can distinguish among only 13,000 different types of injury, the ICD-10 lists 68,000. They include: hurt at the opera (Y92253); walked into a lamppost (W2202XA); and, for potential Darwin Award winners, walked into a lamppost-subsequent encounter (W2202XD). It even covers different eventualities involving flaming water skis.

A few ignorant rubes, like those at the American Medical Association, think this goes too far. That's only natural. As expert Holly Cassano told PBS News Hour, "Initially there was a lot of fear [surrounding ICD-10], as with anything new." But you should have no trouble navigating the more complex system, she says, if you are "armed with the proper coding tools." Did I mention that Cassano runs a medical-coding consulting service?

Besides, in the regulatory world, no detail is too small to overlook. Jon Gabriel of FreedomWorks draws attention to federal standards governing pickles, which run to 25 pages and clarify questions such as the meaning of "curved pickles" ("whole pickles that are curved at an angle of 35 to 60 degrees when measured as illustrated by the following [diagram]") and "diameter in whole style" ("the shortest diameter measured transversely to the longitudinal axis at the greatest circumference of the pickle").

None of this would get the United States beyond the Regulatory Olympics tryout stage, however, if regulations were left solely to Washington to promulgate. Ours is a federal system, after all, which demands that state and local governments do their part. …

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