Treat AHPs as large employers (flexibility on pricing and products)
Relax the requirement that associations must exist for a reason other than offering health plans
Relax definition of “commonality of interest” as:
1) Being in the same trade, industry or profession; or
2) Being in the same principal place of business within the same state or common metropolitan area (even if the metro area extends across state lines) to make it easier for employers to group together
January Letter From WIPP President Jane Campbell
Happy New Year!
Washington was hit by a deep freeze at the beginning of January, causing a bit of a slow start for Congress. But national politics has already resumed its’ torrid pace.
Don’t worry, Women Impacting Public Policy, with cool heads and thoughtful deliberation, will continue to advance and advocate for meaningful public policy that has a positive impact on women business owners.
We are off to a great start. This week, we held an informative and well-attended policy briefing to help our members understand the intricacies and impacts of new developments, like the tax law, in Washington. This will be a new monthly series where members can ask WIPP’s Chief Advocate Ann Sullivan and me questions about the rapidly shifting policy landscape.
On top of our policy work, we are planning a new series of ChallengeHER events across the country to deliver the information and connections women need to succeed in government contracting. We are also busy lining up an informative slate of GiveMe5 webinars to provide members with government contracting knowledge delivered by experts in the field. From taking the first steps into contracting to learning what to do once you’ve landed a big government contract, these webinars are an indispensable resource!
As you can see, WIPP is on track to accomplish many amazing things this year. But it’s your voice and membership that makes us powerful in Washington. And it’s more important than ever that women entrepreneurs make their voices heard. After all, if we are not at the table, we will only get the scraps.
WIPP is a nonpartisan organization that brings women from all walks of life and both sides of the aisle together to speak with one voice about what women in business need to succeed. Please consider joining us today.
Longtime WIPP Friend Emily Murphy Sworn in as GSA Administrator
Longtime WIPP friend Emily Murphy, was sworn in as the 41st administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) this week. Murphy’s Senate confirmation was strongly bipartisan, with leaders on both sides of the aisle praising her experience, qualifications and commitment to public service. The Senate’s unanimous consent decision came after Murphy’s confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, where she discussed her key priorities and vision for advancing the agency. Murphy will lead a workforce of 11,600 full-time employees and oversee approximately $54 billion in annual contracts.
“I look forward to working with our partners in industry, customer agencies, and Congress so that GSA can continue to fulfill its mission of providing the best value in real estate, acquisition, and technology services to government and the American people,” Murphy said last month.
Deadline to Apply for 2018 Health Coverage Friday
The final deadline to apply for 2018 health coverage at HealthCare.gov is this Friday, Dec. 15. Visit www.HealthCare.gov now to apply. You can also find a host of nonpartisan information about health coverage costs, requirements and options on the Kaiser Family Foundation website.
The SBA Office of Advocacy is asking for input on burdensome regulations as part of the office’s Regulatory Reform Efforts. You may fill out the form at www.sba.gov/advocacy. You don’t have to an expert to comment. The office is seeking to engage small business owners on their everyday pain points with respect to federal com
Winter is here and the weather is chilly, but things are boiling over in Washington. Congress is running full-tilt to try to complete a herculean amount of work before year’s end. In this newsletter, we cover developments in taxes, the National Defense Authorization Act, the deadline to sign up for health coverage and a looming deadline to appropriate funds for the 2018 budget.
We saw record support in 2017 from business organizations, with more than 575 organizations nationwide supporting small businesses on Small Business Saturday—an 18 percent increase over previous years.
WIPP, in conjunction with American Express, founded the Small Business Saturday Coalition in 2011. This year, 7,200 events and activities celebrating Small Business Saturday were held nationwide, engaging more than 2.2 million small businesses.
Every year, WIPP is proud to work with public officials at all levels of government and hundreds of organizations and thousands of small businesses to encourage all Americans to “shop small” at local businesses and “dine small” at local bars and restaurants.
As you do your last-minute shopping, consider going to a small business to get it done.
By Jennifer White, WIPP Government Relations
Small Business Administration Administrator Linda McMahon talked about her plans for the agency during her first official hearing with the House Small Business Committee on April 5. From the start, Administrator McMahon made clear that her goal is to raise the profile of the agency, in hopes of renewing the spirit of entrepreneurship in America.
“Becoming administrator has been a lot like assuming the position of CEO – trying to evaluate employees and practices and figuring out what’s working and what’s not. My first town hall address was to let folks know that I want this to be the best SBA that’s ever been,” said McMahon.
Throughout the hearing, committee members showed interest in working with the administrator and addressed hard-hitting topics for WIPP – including access to capital, healthcare, tax reform, and regulations. Below are highlights:
- Access to capital
- In response to inquiries on improving access to capital for women, McMahon said one of her main focuses would be to ensure that more women apply for loans. McMahon plans on providing counseling to women entrepreneurs creating a business plan. She also said she believes SBA can work to increase the number of women in lending positions when asked about the lack of Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) investments to women-owned firms. SBICs are licensed by the SBA to supply small businesses with both equity and debt financing. Increasing women in lending positions is a point highlighted in the WIPP Economic Blueprint.
- The administrator supports the creation of association plans across state lines offered to small businesses, which WIPP supports. McMahon, referring to HR 1101, which recently passed the House, believes this change to the healthcare market would reduce premiums for small business owners.
- Tax reform
- Administrator McMahon wants small businesses to receive similar tax treatment as large businesses, another position WIPP outlines in its Economic Blueprint.
- The administrator supports reforming regulations to reduce the burden and costs placed on small businesses. She believes the first step is to look at what regulations are really necessary and go from there. WIPP cites the need for reliable policies and regulations in the Economic Blueprint, as well.
Only two months into her position, the administrator is in the early stages of making the progress she wants to. But, between her enthusiasm for the positions outlined here and the committee’s readiness to work with the administration, it is certain there will be lots to watch for in the coming year.
To watch the full hearing and read Administrator McMahon’s written testimony, click here.
By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate
For many years, my son Matt and I watched March Madness together (that was until he moved to Los Angeles). Not only are many of the games squeakers, I love the upsets and Cinderella teams that emerge during the tournament. Half of the fun is filling out the brackets and guessing which teams will move forward.
So, in honor of March madness, we bring you March policy madness. We have created a policy bracket of the issues we expect will make it past the first round of Congressional action. Just for fun.
Here’s an explanation of the Policy Brackets:
Upper Left: Healthcare vs. Border Wall
President Trump’s Executive Actions have identified both repeal of Obamacare and the potential construction of a border wall. Congressional attention is focused on repealing and or replacing the Affordable Care Act.
Healthcare wins this round.
Upper Left: Regulatory Reform vs. FY2018 Appropriations
Congress is hungry to take back policy-making power from the Executive Branch and has found a sweet spot—rolling back regulations—a move President Trump agrees with. He has already signed legislation repealing a Department of Interior rule and is expected to sign more repeals in the coming months.
On the other hand, appropriations is a long and cumbersome process. To get started, on Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations, President Trump needs to share a budget outline with Congress expected next month, and both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will need to pass all 11 appropriations bills by the end of September. This is a process that has not occurred in over 20 years.
Regulatory reform wins this round.
Lower Left: Trade vs. Supreme Court Nominee
President Trump has indicated that reforming trade policy is a high priority. But revamping global trade deals into bilateral negotiations will prove to be complicated. The Supreme Court vacancy, on the other hand, has been top of mind. Some Senate Democrats have privately conceded that they expect Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed, taking the place of Antonin Scalia.
The bracket goes to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
Lower Left: Debt Ceiling v. Government Shutdown
Toward the end of the summer, the Treasury Department will have exhausted all “extraordinary measures” to continue paying the government’s bills. Once again, Congress will need to raise the debt ceiling. This close-to-annual exercise used to be non-controversial. But not anymore. This is an opportunity for Congress to discuss fiscal policy.
Another opportunity to discuss fiscal policy is the expiration of the Continuing Resolution on April 28th. In the past, government shutdowns have been threatened/executed, putting continued funding of the government at risk. Given that both Houses of Congress and the president are from the same party, it doesn’t seem likely that shutting down the government is an option. That being said, crazier things have happened in Washington.
Due to timing, debt ceiling wins by a single foul shot.
Upper Right: Taxes vs. Immigration
Tax reform, a priority of both the president and the Congress, is long overdue. In fact, comprehensive tax reform has not been successful since 1986. But don’t look for action overnight. Congressional Republicans are suggesting it will be undertaken sometime this fall.
On the other hand, immigration is even more contentious and bipartisan reform plans were last successful in 1996 under President Clinton. Since then, although there have been many efforts, reform has been elusive.
Tax wins this round.
Upper Right: Defense Spending vs. Infrastructure
Appropriators are currently preparing a special supplemental funding bill for the Defense Department and President Trump announced he would like to add $54 billion to the defense budget. The infrastructure bill hasn’t gained as much traction as the rhetoric about its importance.
Defense spending wins this round.
Lower right: FY17 Omnibus Appropriations vs. NDAA
The National Defense Authorization Act has a 55-year history of being signed into law each year. It is considered in Congress a “must pass” bill. Omnibus appropriations that combine multiple appropriations into a single bill have a spotty record at best. While Omnibus appropriations passed in Fiscal Year 2016, it is still unclear how the rest of FY17 will be funded. Because no one is quite sure, we declare NDAA the winner.
NDAA wins this round.
Lower right: Spending Cuts vs. Elimination of a Federal Agency
President Trump made a campaign promise to significantly decrease agency spending and is expected to propose major cuts in the FY2018 budget. Although eliminating agencies is possible, it is easier to starve an agency than eliminate it altogether.
Spending cuts win this round.
The Elite Eight issues that we predict will prevail to the next round in Washington are:
- Regulatory Reform
- Supreme Court Appointment
- Debt Ceiling
- Defense spending
- Spending Cuts
In Washington policy circles, representing women-owned businesses is often like rooting for the underdog. Women across the country who have joined our voice often end up winning the policy fight even though they are dismissed in the “first round.” But collectively, we can end up being the winners who bring home the victory. Not just for us, but for those who have come before us and those that are coming behind us.
Which issues do you think will score over the coming month? Tweet at us @WIPPWeDecide #DCelite8 with your predictions for the Final Policy Four.
By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate
President Trump will complete only his third full week on Friday and has already left a lasting mark on how small businesses and government itself work with 20 Executive Orders. Through a series of presidential actions, Mr. Trump has touched on topics ranging from Immigration to healthcare. It’s time we took a deeper dive into what’s come down the pipeline and how it affects the small business community. Read the blog here.
The domestic policy action that was signed in the presence of a number of small businesses, is the “Two-for-One” Executive Order.
Here’s the rundown. The Executive Order has two parts – one aimed at Fiscal Year 2017 and one for Fiscal Year 2018:
- FY17: “1 in and 2 out.” If a federal agency proposes a new regulation, it must recommend two regulations to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to be terminated. OMB, not the agency will have the final word on which regulations are eliminated.
- FY18 and subsequent fiscal years: Agencies are ordered to offset costs of new regulations and the OMB is ordered to create a budget that limits how much a new regulation can rise.
On its face, this Executive Order spells relief for lenders and small businesses but there are a raft of unknowns still to be resolved. One question is when this directive will be implemented. For example, the administration’s OMB Director-designate Congressman Mick Mulvaney is undergoing a tough confirmation process and the timeline for his confirmation by the full Senate is still unclear.
Executive Orders generally provide broad guidelines rather than detailed plans on its execution. Questions to be answered are: What actually constitutes a “regulation?” Is it simply a single rule or a whole host of interwoven regulations that, together, provide guidance for an agency on an individual program or policy? What constitutes a “cost?” Will the benefit in a cost-benefit analysis be considered or will the analysis include only the cost? OMB is stocked with experts so we anticipate much more clarity on this as soon as the OMB director is confirmed.
Now, on to more straightforward presidential actions regarding President Trump’s infrastructure plans. One such action expedites environmental review and approval for high priority infrastructure projects and gives any Cabinet member or governor the unilateral ability to designate a project as “high priority” thus shortening the approval process, laid out in the NEPA law. He’s also issued a “Build the Wall” action which orders the Department of Homeland Security to begin building a wall along the U.S. and Mexico border using existing funds. It also authorizes the hiring of 5,000 new border agents. Congress will have to appropriate additional funds for completion because the current budget does not have funding for this project.
Additionally, there were two more Executive Orders issued almost immediately upon President Trump’s inauguration. One of the first actions signed by President Trump was an Executive Order that begins the process of repealing Obamacare. While it does not directly repeal the law, it directs federal agencies to give states, insurance companies and consumers maximum flexibility in complying with Obamacare until such a time as it is repealed. Full repeal and/or replace is going to take an act of Congress which has been openly wrangling with itself on whether to repeal, repeal and replace, or to “repair” the existing law. Regardless, this presidential action starts the ball rolling with respect to repeal of Obamacare while Congress considers its course of action.
The other significant action taken by the president instituted a federal agency-wide hiring freeze on all existing and open positions with exceptions for national security, military, and public safety. The president intends this as a stopgap and allows agencies to reallocate to prevent public safety and national security from being adversely affected. The kicker, however, is that the memorandum explicitly prevents the hiring of outside contractors to prevent the circumvention of the spirit of the order. Given the number of waivers and exceptions allowed, it’s not altogether clear how this will work in practice, but it certainly lays down a marker that the president is serious about reining in the growth of the federal government.
Finally, on Feb. 3, the president signed two Executive Orders aimed at decreasing regulations for the financial industry; the first calling for a review and the scaling back of existing financial laws, including Dodd-Frank, and the second halting the implementation of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule, which was set to go into effect this April.
Dodd-Frank, enacted after the 2008 meltdown, was responsible for creating more stringent rules regarding bank capitalization, increasing compliance and reporting standards for banks, introducing stricter mortgage requirements, creating the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and curbing excessive risk-taking and the existence of too-big-to-fail institutions on Wall Street. Mr. Trump’s action on Dodd-Frank requires regulators to produce a study on financial rules within 120 days—appearing as more of a demand for a review than a complete dismantling of the law.
The fiduciary rule was intended to prevent consumers from receiving conflicted advice when it comes to retirement savings. The president’s order calls for the DOL to examine the rule to determine whether it may lead to the unintended consequence of making it more difficult for advisors to provide financial advice to their clients. However, embraced by much of the financial industry, this order is expected to move quickly compared to the order on Dodd-Frank.
These Executive Actions have the potential to clear the way for even greater gains by women-owned small business moving forward. As we reach for new heights in 2017, WIPP will be fully engaged with the Congress and administration to ensure that burdensome regulations harming the growth of women-owned small business are eliminated and we continue to be the robust engine powering the small business economy.
By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate
Affordability, predictability, and flexibility were three themes reiterated at the Feb. 7 hearing held by the House Committee on Small Business entitled “Reimagining the Health Care Marketplace for America’s Small Business.” It was held for the purpose of taking a look at the current marketplace and its recent difficulties, and to explore options to improve access, affordability, and consistency.
While no clear legislative path has yet been paved, many facts, figures, and ideas were floated around regarding how to ensure that small business is not an afterthought in the revamping of the healthcare system. Solutions presented and discussed at the hearing included tax credits for small business, across state line coverage, and Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements.
Here is more about the items discussed.
- Tax credits for the self-employed: As the Tax Code currently stands, self-employed individuals are restricted from deducting their health insurance premiums. Small, self-employed business owners end up paying more for health insurance because their premiums are not treated the same for taxes as other businesses.
Leveling the playing field by giving these small businesses tax credits would improve affordability for small business owners, as well as expand the pool of coverage, according to Keith Hall of the National Association of the Self-Employed (NASE).
- Across state line coverage: The number of insurers participating in the marketplace varies widely from state to state, as do the number of coverage plans. The lack of competition among insurers in the current exchanges decreases pressure to keep costs down.
Mr. Hall of the NASE believes that allowing for the sale of health insurance across state lines will boost competition, driving costs down. In order for this to happen, Congress will have to enact a health plan that will modify the existing law that inhibits the sale of health insurance across state lines.
- Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs): A provision of a law signed into Congress last session allows small employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees that do not offer a group health plan to fund employee HRAs to pay for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses and for non-group plan health insurance premiums, including plans purchased on the public health care exchanges.
Allowing small businesses to offer a bare bones plan and HSAs would allow individuals to decide the best choice for themselves and their families, according to Tom Secor of Durable Corporation, who testified on behalf of the National Small Business Association (NSBA).
This hearing was the first of a continuing series that will take place on the discussion of healthcare repeal and replacement. To read full written testimony from each witness here.
By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate
The 115th Congress is already at work and taking votes that impact women business owners. The Senate voted 51 to 48 early Thursday to approve a budget resolution that instructs Congressional committees to begin work on legislation repealing major portions of the Affordable Care Act.
Senator Rand Paul was the lone Republican “no” vote and Republicans defeated Democratic amendments defending popular portions of the ACA, including expanded Medicaid and Medicare and allowing kids to stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26.
The House is expected to take up the resolution this week, though debate may extend into the weekend.
WIPP will work with Congress to ensure that whatever changes are implemented address accessibility and affordability—issues that have plagued the small business market.
WIPP will stay on top of legislative developments like this in 2017 to make sure you have the latest information you need.
Tucked deep within the 824-page “21st Century Cures” legislation passed this week, was a major victory for Women Impacting Public Policy and entrepreneurs nationwide. The bill, on its way to the President for his signature will allow for the return of Health Reimbursement Arrangements, or “HRAs”, a small business-friendly way to offer health benefits.
In short, HRAs offer business owners an easy and tax-friendly way to subsidize employee medical costs, including insurance premiums. For example, a business owner could offer $200 a month to employees toward their individual premiums instead of providing health insurance through a company plan.
In practice, employees shop for plans in the individual market, finding what best fits their needs and budget. The business reimburses employees for some or that entire premium. This was a popular method for small businesses for which company-wide insurance plans were prohibitively costly.
The Affordable Care Act, however, and its interpretation by the IRS created stiff penalties (up to $500,000) for businesses using this method to offer a health benefit. This legislation reverses that interpretation, making clear that such plans are acceptable, penalty free.
Employers can now offer up to $4,950 per employee per year ($10,000 for employees with dependents) and employees must show they used funds on medical purposes, including premiums. Companies must have 50 or fewer employees and must offer the benefit to all employees to be eligible.
WIPP has long advocated a fix to this unintended consequence and took the lead in pressing Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to provide temporary relief last year.
John Stanford, WIPP Government Relations