The Washington Times - January 13, 2012, 02:14PM

Leading GOP legislators are accusing the Obama administration of ducking a requirement to tell insurers exactly what benefits they must cover under the new health care law — and how much it will cost them.

Instead of releasing a proposed rule on the new requirements last month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) instead opted for a much vaguer “bulletin” that left specific details up to the states, although the agency plans to release a final regulation in the near future.


While HHS officials said they were offering more flexibility, Republicans are painting the move as a way to avoid transparency, saying the administration wiggled its way out of publishing an analysis of how the new requirements will affect insurance premiums.

Reps. Fred Upton, Dave Camp and John Kline and Sens. Mike Enzi and Orrin Hatch sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday, asking her to explain the agency’s decision and release a cost-benefit analysis.

“The administration has claimed that ‘President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history,’ however, the actions taken by your department in implementing provisions of the new health care law, and most recently the essential health benefits ‘bulletin,’ do not comport with this claim,” the letter said.

The legislators also said that because a bulletin doesn’t have the force of law, the administration sidestepped the need to respond to public comments.

“Publishing a ‘bulletin’ rather than a proposed rule is the antithesis of an ‘open and transparent’ process,” they wrote.

Insurance plans must offer minimum coverage beginning in 2014, when health exchanges are supposed to be up and running in each state under President Obama’s landmark 2010 law. Industry stakeholders have been anxiously awaiting a determination by HHS on which benefits will be deemed “essential.”