by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
Why is this a big deal? Well-designed regulations can protect us, but regulations also have costs. My research conservatively estimates that HHS regulations cost about $230 billion annually. This affects our pocketbooks, for sure, but it also has implications for health and safety. The compliance costs from these regulations reduce business profitability, and these losses get passed on to workers in the form of lower wages and to customers in the form of higher prices. By extension, families have less to spend on doctor’s visits, safer vehicles, or living in more-secure or less-polluted neighborhoods. Wealthier families may not feel the pinch, but across society, some risks inevitably rise.
When regulatory costs rise enough, one can even expect deaths to occur as an assortment of rules pushes some hard-working Americans who are on the margins into poverty. Research that I and others have done estimates that for each $100 million or so in regulatory costs, there will be one expected death due to an impoverishment effect.
Using that metric, the cost of HHS regulations could indirectly result in more than 2,000 deaths each year. …
We’ll never know which regulations are saving lives — or which are prematurely ending them — without reviewing the complicated patchwork of rules on the books.