Executive Order Bonanza has Implications for Business

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.

Reimagining Health Care

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.

Senate Begins Process to Repeal Obamacare

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.

HRAs Back in Time for the New Year

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

Keep It Simple, Silly

By John Stanford, WIPP Government Relations

 

hc - wippIt’s a favorite phrase of my boss – and WIPP’s Chief Advocate – Ann Sullivan. The idea is nothing new: a simple solution is usually the best. That is why, for years, women business owners used the simplest possible idea for providing health benefits – you (employee) go out and get your own insurance and I (employer) will reimburse you. Simple, right?

They are called Healthcare Reimbursement Arrangements, or HRAs, and bringing them back (for the second time) is one of WIPP’s top healthcare priorities. We are making great progress. The House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation that would allow HRAs to be used for firms with fewer than 50 employees. The House as a whole is expected to vote on the bill next week.

The bill would allow employers to reimburse employees for qualified medical expenses like premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Importantly, employers must offer it to all eligible employees and cannot offer a separate group plan. The reimbursement is capped at around $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for families and does not count as employee income (meaning no taxes!).

Again, the idea is simple. Employers select an amount to reimburse employees, instead of locking in an insurance plan that may not fit their employees or their budget. But why did we lose HRAs in the first place? That is not so simple.

The Affordable Care Act eliminated caps on health insurance plans—an undoubtedly good thing for when disaster or disease strikes. But, in the opinion of the IRS, these HRAs, by definition, had a cap (however much the employer contributed). So they were outlawed in 2013 or 2014.

2013 or 2014 is a strange way to describe when the IRS banned a certain healthcare plan. But that is what it was – the IRS notices on the issue were so confusing they had to issue additional regulations three times. Policy wonks, insurers, and healthcare consultants were unsure – let alone business owners – about whether they were allowed. And making a mistake on this carries severe penalties; offering a non-conforming plan can trigger a penalty of $100 per day per employee –more than $350,000 a year for a company with 10 employees.

Because of this confusion, WIPP stepped in asking Secretary Burwell to intervene on behalf of women business owners. She did and HRAs were allowed through June 2015. Legislation is needed to bring them back permanently and WIPP is optimistic Democrats and Republicans can work together, as they already have, to get this done. After all, ten million women business owners and their nearly nine million employees are pretty active voters.

It’s pretty simple.

More on how WIPP is working with Congress and the Administration to bring competitively-priced and accessible health options to women business owners is in our blog, Making the Affordable Care Act Work.

 

 

 

 

 

Open Enrollment for 2016 Health Insurance Marketplace Begins

It’s time to get covered!  HCgov stock imageryMillions of Americans count on HealthCare.gov for quality and affordable health coverage. If you or someone you care about needs health insurance, you should know that Open Enrollment for 2016 coverage runs from November 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016.

Learn about options available in your area by visiting HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596.

Key Dates and Deadlines

  • November 1, 2015: Open Enrollment for 2016 Marketplace coverage begins.
  • December 15, 2015: Deadline to enroll for coverage starting January 1, 2016.
  • January 15, 2016: Deadline to enroll for coverage starting February 1, 2016.
  • January 31, 2016: Last day of Open Enrollment for 2016 Marketplace coverage.

Helpful Resources for Business Owners & the Self-Employed

New IRS Resource helps Employers Understand the Health Care Law

Healthcare taxThe new ACA Information Center for Applicable Large Employers page on IRS.gov features information and resources for employers of all sizes on how the health care law may affect them if they fit the definition of an applicable large employer (ALE).

Although the vast majority of employers will not be affected, you should determine if you are an applicable large employer.  If you averaged at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, during 2014, you are most likely an ALE for 2015.  If you have fewer than 50 full-time employees, you may be considered an applicable large employer if you share a common ownership with other employers. As an applicable large employer, you should be taking steps now to prepare for the coming filing season.

The web page includes the following sections:

  • What’s Trending for ALEs,
  • How to Determine if You are an ALE,
  • Resources for Applicable Large Employers, and
  • Outreach Materials.

Visitors to the new page will find links to:

  • Detailed information about tax provisions including information reporting requirements for employers,
  • Questions and answers, and
  • Forms, instructions, publications, health care tax tips, flyers and videos.

In 2016, applicable large employers must file an annual information return – and provide a statement to each full-time employee – reporting whether they offered health insurance, and if so, what insurance they offered their employees. 

If you will file 250 or more information returns for 2015, you must file the returns electronically through the ACA Information Reports system.  You should review draft Publication 5165, Guide for Electronically Filing Affordable Care Act (ACA) Information Returns, now for information on the communication procedures, transmission formats, business rules and validation procedures for returns that you must transmit in 2016.

Visit the IRS’s new ACA Information Center for Applicable Large Employers resource page for more helpful information.

How PPACA Will Affect Your Business The Next 5 Years?

Tod Covert  By Todd Covert, Executive Vice President of ACA Track

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) – also known as the Affordable Care Act or ACA – is the landmark health reform legislation passed by the 111th Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010. The legislation includes a long list of health-related provisions that began taking effect in 2010 and will “continue to be rolled out over the next four years.” Key provisions are intended to extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, to implement measures that will lower health care costs and improve system efficiency, and to eliminate industry practices that include rescission and denial of coverage due to pre-existing.

What does it mean for business today?

Business With 50-99 Employees 2015

Key Point #1

Navigating through transition relief to determine the date you need to make sure you are in compliance.

Applicable large employers (ALEs) with fewer than 100 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, may have until 2016 to offer health insurance to eligible employees and their dependents without facing penalties.

This transition relief is available to employers who can certify that they have not reduced their workforce to remain under the threshold and have not materially reduced or eliminated health coverage previously offered. This certification needs to be included with your filing under Section 6056 for 2015.

The IRS will still grant transition relief to employers who reduced their workforce for “bona fide” business reasons.

Key Point #2

If you are over 50 FTE (Full-Time Equivalents) or part of a control group (Parent Company) with more than 50 FTE than you MUST file the 1095-C and 1094-C even if you do not offer coverage.

Key Point #3

Don’t “expect” your payroll company to complete these 1094-C and 1095-C forms.

Why?  Most payroll companies don’t even track the information required to complete these new IRS forms—It is more a benefit enrollment and plan design function than payroll.

  1. Dates of hire and waiting periods determine when employees are in the limited assessment period. Partial months are treated uniquely differently than full months and the series coded will change. Most payroll vendors only track deductions.
  1. Termination, rehire dates and class changes impact offer of coverage and safe harbor designations. Employees with a number of changes during the year can see a variety of different codes appearing on form 1095. Not a payroll function
  1. Offer of coverage determines whether 70% (2015) and 95% (2016) levels are reached or significant penalties are to be paid. Not a payroll function
  1. Safe harbor designations and income drive affordability calculations. Not a payroll function
  1. Transition relief provides the ability to mitigate risk and avoid penalties altogether.  Not a payroll function

Key Point #4

Start balancing culture and cost now because the “Cadillac Tax” is on the horizon in 2018—It’s not a matter of “IF” we hit the Cadillac Tax it’s a matter of “When” we hit the Cadillac Tax.

If health insurance exceeds $10,200 in premiums for an individual or $27,500 for a family. The tax amounts to 40 percent of the cost above that threshold AND its Non-Tax Deductible.

Why do we say “When” we hit the Cadillac Tax?  The insurance cost threshold ($10,200 in premiums for an individual or $27,500 for a family) only increases at CPI each year which is about 3.1% and Healthcare inflation increases close to 8.0% thus the X & Y axis lines are eventually going to cross.

Please join us September 29th for Women Accessing Capital: 5 Things You Need to Know About the New 1094-C and 1095-C IRS Reporting. Register now! 

Meet the World’s Youngest Self-Made Female Billionaire: Elizabeth Holmes.

by Annie Wilson, InternEH

According to Forbes, Elizabeth Holmes has been named the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire with a net worth of $4.5 billion. Earlier this month she was named as Time Magazine’s List of 100 most influential people. Her billion dollar idea?: a revolutionary way to make blood testing accessible for anybody. Holmes’ company, Theranos, created a system that brings together a minimally invasive and needle free method of blood withdrawal with hundreds of low cost tests that almost anyone could afford. Holmes’ intention is to restructure our healthcare system to be more preventative as opposed to a reactive:

“The current health care paradigm is one in which diagnosis often takes place after symptoms are already present, and diseases have begun to progress. We’re committed to changing that. We’re pioneering a new paradigm in which lab testing is accessible and affordable for everyone. When cost is no longer a consideration and people no longer have to be symptomatic in order to get a test. Meaning your patients can get the tests they need, and you can get the information you need, early and in time for therapy to be effective.” – Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos website

Holmes attended Stanford University but dropped out at the age of 19 to start Theranos in 2003. Since then, Holmes has impressed investors with the potential commercial, military, and humanitarian applications of her idea. Holmes has also acquired a very impressive board of directors, including former cabinet secretaries George Shultz, Bill Perry and Henry Kissinger, two former Senators, a retired CentCom commander, a retired Navy admiral and a former director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. She has rapidly developed her company since 2003 and has notably partnered with Walgreens to build thousands of Wellness Centers for Theranos to carry out its testing. To date, Theranos has also accumulated $92 million in venture capital funding from investors like Larry Ellison and Draper Fisher Jurvetson with her first venture capital funding worth $5.8 million in 2005 at the age of 21. Holmes owns 84 patents to her name and Theranos is estimated to be worth $9 billion with Holmes owning half of its stock.

If you want to learn more about Elizabeth Holmes:

  • Click here for a video about how she came up with her business idea.
  • Click here for a timeline of Theranos’ conception
  • Click here to watch a TED Talk given by Holmes about the importance of early detection

Making the Affordable Care Act Work

ACAIn Washington, there are a few axioms on which almost everyone (Rs and Ds alike) can agree. Don’t hold events in August. If the meeting is important, take a cab, not the metro. Social media can be dangerous. And of course, no law is perfect.

The biggest law of the last decade, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “ACA” or “Obamacare” or “President’s Health Law”, and so on) is certainly a good example of the latter. The bill’s authors, President Obama, and more than just a few Congressional Republicans can agree on that. But that is no different than any other major policy change – they all undergo a period of fixes, tweaks, and changes usually addressing unintended consequences. Blame it on the nature of compromise, the mistakes of over-worked underpaid Hill staffers, or, I kid you not, typos.

If you read recent communications (or belong to the healthcare committee!) you will see that WIPP is supporting some of these changes to benefit women entrepreneurs. In our view, Obamacare is the law of the land* – but that doesn’t mean we cannot change it. Here are the tweaks we have supported recently:

Full Time is 40 Hours – Not 30

The Issue: Obamacare defined a full-time worker as working thirty hours a week. The definition matters for defining whether a business is exempt from the employer mandate (under 50 FTEs is exempt – yes, you have to add in part time employees, but good news: calculator). Just a refresher: if you have more than 50 FTEs and don’t offer health insurance, you may face penalties.

The Fix: The Save America’s Workers Act (creative license is allowed in bill names) changes 30 hours to 40 hours for the week calculation. WIPP supports the bill.

WIPP’s Position: A workweek is a workweek. Dolly Parton sang 9 to 5, not 10 to 4. The law used a thirty-hour definition in an effort to make the math (i.e. $$$) work. In addition, it was a tool to increase the number of low-hour workers that might receive employer-sponsored coverage. While increasing coverage is laudable, it should not have come at the expense of an arbitrary definition at odds with working America. The Obama Administration signaled opposition to the bill because it could undo some of the coverage gained in the past years. Whether or not this is true (wonks on both sides agree, the change would have little impact either way), the principle of the matter is simple: traditional definitions should not be upended on a whim. An American workweek is forty hours. Part-time workers, who also need coverage, should be addressed, but separately.

Bring Back HRAs

The Issue: Some very technical guidance from the IRS last fall removed a simple way for employers to help employees pay for health insurance premiums. Basically, a Health Reimbursement Arrangement, or HRA, let the employee find their own insurance and employers could reimburse employees at their discretion.

The Fix: Two options. One, the IRS could admit this was a bone-headed move and put out new guidance. Unlikely. Two, a few bills in the past Congress would allow HRAs to be allowed for businesses with fewer than 50 employees. WIPP is working with those offices in the new Congress. More to come.

WIPP’s Position: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It worked in the past, now it’s broken. Someone should fix this (so to sum up: it wasn’t broken, the ACA broke it, now it needs a fix). HRAs can be a good part of a solution that gets more people covered. Often business owners look for the path of least resistance – for some businesses, HRAs can be that path. While WIPP reviews every comma of legislation before endorsing, WIPP would likely back legislation that made this change.

Expand Eligibility for the Small Business Tax Credit

The Issue: One of the small business carrots in Obamacare was the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. But this carrot came with a lot of strings attached (mixed metaphors?). Currently, the tax credit is only available to businesses with fewer than 25 employees and average wages of less than $50,000. Moreover, to receive the full tax credit, which covers up to 50% of employer-paid premiums, businesses must have 10 or fewer employees and average wages of up to $25,000.

The Fix: Expand eligibility for the tax credit. Under the Small Business Tax Credit Accessibility Act, these restrictions would be relaxed to make businesses with up to 50 employees and average wages of up to $80,025 eligible for the tax credit. Additionally, it would extend the number of consecutive years a small business can claim the tax credit from two (current law) to three years. It also removes the requirement that employers claiming the credit contribute the same percentage of the cost for each employee’s health insurance.

WIPP’s Position: WIPP supports the bill. All these efforts stem from the idea that small businesses need help to provide coverage. Accessing that help should be easy, and not limited to a few businesses. We’ve heard from business owners nationwide saying that they simply don’t qualify under these strict requirements.

In a law that in size 8 font is nearly 1,000 pages, with thousands more in regulations**, there are more than three needed fixes. These are a few where WIPP members’ experiences drove us to advocate for these changes. Please let us know if any law is adversely affecting your business. It’s what we are here for.


*The Supreme Court is currently reviewing substantial portions of the law. Depending on their decision, this could all be a moot point.

**WIPP recently visited with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office, which keeps a stack of the regulations, in case you wanted a visual.


John Stanford is part of WIPP’s Government Relations team in Washington, D.C., specializing in federal procurement and healthcare policy. When not bothering lawmakers about needed changes, he can be found in the woods at local golf courses.