The pandemic over the novel Wuhan coronavirus has prompted policymakers to re-examine regulations that impede the ability of health and other workers to speedily address the national concern. As of this writing, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported more than 330,00 Wuhan virus cases nationwide with nearly 9,000 total deaths.
The public health crisis has brought an economic crisis as state and local governments close all businesses deemed “non-essential” leading to a record of nearly 10 million people filing new unemployment claims in the last two weeks.
As the governments at the federal, state and local levels pull every lever to combat the virus and mitigate the impacts of economic suicide, the conservative-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released a report on Tuesday identifying a laundry list of regulations it is urging policymakers to repeal permanently in the wake of the epidemic.
Cut The Red Tape
Among the list of items CEI is recommending include the removal of red-tape barriers to accelerate the pace at which medicine can be approved to provide life-saving treatments. Specifically, CEI is urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to offer conditional approval following phase II trials rather than subject new products to another time-consuming set of clinical trials in phase III.
CEI is also urging the 36 states and the District of Columbia to repeal “Certificate of Need” laws that require state regulator approval for health-care facilities to seek new medical equipment. Some state and local governments have already temporarily waived such laws in preparation for an expected surge in patients struck by the virus.
Other items that CEI is calling on policymakers to remove as unnecessary barriers to life-saving measures include fuel efficiency rules for manufacturers of medical devices, and hurdles to telemedicine. To address the need for rural health-care access while the virus spreads, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) temporarily waived enforcement of potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to open new digital doors for providers to reach patients unable to make it to a hospital or clinic.
Focus On Disease, Not Vaping
Federal public health agencies for years have been distracted by demonizing the life-saving smoking cessation tools of electronic cigarettes while tasked with the crucial role of focusing on “controlling disease.”
“The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may well have taken their eye off the ball by focusing too much of their budget and efforts on public health issues such as the risks association with flavored vaping products,” the authors of the CEI report wrote. “This focus may also have diverted the medical community into doing research surrounding issues of interest to federal grant makers, including the National Institutes of Health, rather than on emerging infectious disease threats. Congress should refocus these agencies towards protecting the nation against threats like infectious diseases.’
While at the helm of the FDA, Scott Gottlieb led the crusade against vaping as the nation’s drug regulator-in-chief despite an abundance of evidence showing e-cigarette products to be the most effective form of smoking cessation to combat the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. The CDC estimates that smoking leads to approximately 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, which is more than double the number of people that the White House is expecting to die from the Wuhan virus.
Last week, the Trump administration said it anticipates 100,000 to 240,000 Americans will lose their lives to the virus, although according to the Washington Post, some of the president’s advisors have cast doubts that fatality numbers will be that high.
Lift Pointless Economic Regulations
To ease the impact of mandated closures on the restaurant industry and encourage people to stay inside, some state and local governments have temporarily allowed establishments to deliver alcohol to those at home. CEI is recommending all governments adopt such measures.
CEI also cites rules deterring single-use plastic bags in jurisdictions across the country as posing unnecessary consequences while providing no substantive benefits to the environment.
“Not only do reusable bags provide no environmental benefit, studies show they can harbor dangerous pathogens,” the authors write.
New York state and San Francisco, California have each joined the growing list of governments temporarily suspending their regulations on plastic bags as the Wuhan virus crisis persists.
CEI is also urging a lift on trade tariffs to enhance the resiliency of supply chains and expand trade opportunities overseas.
Read the full report here.