Health Care and Benefits Update From Washington, D.C.

Earlier this week, I attended a legislative update in Washington, D.C., hosted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP).

It was quite an informative and insightful discussion—though not particularly surprising—as those working on the Hill gave their perspectives and updates on what’s going on in Congress.

The conference started with a bang as guest speaker Charlie Cook, American political analyst known for The Cook Political Report, gave his presentation on the political landscape.

Cook discussed the importance of this year’s mid-term elections, referencing it as “one of the most important mid-year elections of all time.”

The Senate is at a 51-49 split with Republicans edging out the majority. Cook expects that any important legislation will be delayed until after November as each party waits it out to see who will keep or obtain majority there.

Regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and efforts to repeal and/or replace, most agree that this will not be addressed again in 2018. However, there is a senator on the Hill trying to get votes for a “Block Grant” bill, which repeals most of the ACA and proposes to give states a grant to implement their own measures.

Staffers and politicians are busy trying to implement Trump’s executive orders and focused on specific efforts.

Trump Executive Orders – Efforts by the DOL/EBSA

  • Association Health Plans: In the past, these have been highly regulated. Trump issued orders for the Department of Labor (DOL) to work on de-regulating Association Health Plans (AHPs).
  • Specifically, expand to include individuals, cross state lines, and allow employers in the association to be treated as one instead of being underwritten separately.
  • Revise definition of short-term insurance.

Issue on the Hill – Efforts by Lawmakers and Staffers

  • Enforcing Mental Health Parity: This stemmed from group health plans trying to solve the opioid crisis by putting cost containment measures in place—limiting scripts, treatment centers, etc.
  • Pension plans for multi employers under Taft-Hartley—there is a significant number of pension plans that will not be able to recover from the crash in 2008 which now needs Government intervention. However, the Government has made it clear it will not bail these pension plans out.

During my time in D.C., I heard from several panelists and speakers.

Here are a few:

  • Chris Allen – Senior Advisor for Benefits and Exempt Organizations, Senate Finance Committee.
  • William Hoagland, Senior Vice President, Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).
  • Michael E. Auerbach, CPA, Chief Accountant, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)/DOL.
  • Lauson C. Green, Special Counsel, IRS Office of the Chief Counsel.

I did find it promising that there is a proposal on the Hill that will attempt to address the many different state-specific Paid Leave laws from a federal standpoint—there is hope for employers with multi-state employees!

Overall, there was a consensus that not much will get done between now and the end of the year for various reasons:

  • Politicians too divided.
  • Mid-term elections have both parties taking a wait and see approach.
  • Lawmakers and staffers have their plates full with the efforts mentioned previously in this article.

While I don’t have anything new to report, I wanted to give our readers a peek into what’s going on in D.C.




About Michelle Cammayo

Michelle Cammayo has more than 13 years of Employee Benefits experience specializing in all lines of health and welfare benefits. Today, Michelle works closely with clients and partners to provide guidance in areas of the law including ERISA, HIPAA, COBRA, FMLA and PPACA. She also oversees the Compliance Department at Bolton & Company to ensure we are helping our clients manage and eliminate risk with regards to employee benefit compliance.

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