The Health and Human Services Department is again postponing the start date of a rule from President Donald Trump's administration that would require it to assess nearly all regulations after 10 years and automatically eliminate rules not reviewed within five years.
The policy, known as the SUNSET rule, is now delayed until Sept. 22, HHS disclosed in a Federal Register notice Thursday.
The rule was originally supposed to go into effect last March after the Trump administration finalized it in the final days of the president's term. Under President Joe Biden,, HHS first delayed the rule until this month after several organizations filed a lawsuit against it last year. The plaintiffs claim the regulation is a "ticking timebomb" that could severely disrupt the healthcare system by creating regulatory confusion. The complaint alleges more than 17,000 rules could sunset by 2026.
HHS postponed enforcing the rule so it wouldn't go into effect while the department reviewed it in light of the lawsuit, which itself has been stayed since April to give HHS time to consider its position.
In October, HHS proposed withdrawing the entire regulation. The department received about 80 comments on that proposal and continues to consider them while developing a final rule, according to the Federal Register notice.
"While HHS does not concede that plaintiffs would establish irreparable harm in litigation, HHS agrees that it is appropriate to postpone the effective date of the SUNSET final rule to preserve the status quo and to ensure that HHS has time to evaluate the rule before it takes effect to avoid the possibility of confusion among the regulated community," the new notice says.
This delay means it's possible HHS won't ever fully repeal the rule because they could have done so by now, said Claire Ernst, director of government affairs for the Medical Group Management Association.
"It's a little unexpected to me. After delaying for a year, and after them reviewing comments, I would've thought that they would just go ahead and do this," Ernst said. "I'm surprised they'd just let this sort of linger, especially since it's not their administration's priority."