Some are calling for an environmental impact statement (EIS) to take a hard look at the potential impact of health care reform. EISs typically analyze the potential impacts of federally-funded infrastructure projects such as roads, parks or power plants.
However, the National Environmental Policy Act does extend to “legislation and other major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” And occasionally, an EIS is prepared to determine the potential impacts of a new program, such as this EIS discussing the impacts of the USDA’s Biomass Crop Assistance Program.
It is hard to argue that the potential impacts of health care reform would be less than that of a road, park, power plant or the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. However, NEPA does not apply to the President, Congress or the Federal courts–only to Federal agencies in the executive branch (see 40CFR1508.12). So as long as health care reform is proposed by the President and/or Congress, the action isn’t covered by NEPA and thus, an EIS isn’t required.