WIPP Works in Washington – August 2018

Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain

Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

In the final scene of the Wizard of Oz, the dog Toto pulls back the curtain and Dorothy discovers the man behind the curtain is not the great and powerful Wizard, he’s just a little old man with a megaphone. Sometimes, actions in Washington use the megaphone but there is relatively little “behind the curtain.” That’s how the new rule on Association Health Plans (AHPs), issued by the Department of Labor, feels.

It was with great fanfare that the Administration issued new rules for AHPs. WIPP has supported AHPs since its inception as a necessary tool to allow small businesses to band together to create larger health insurance pools, thus creating more competition and better prices in the small business marketplace. Insurance rules adopted during the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) largely prohibited AHPs from a viable option. Because every insurance plan had to cover 10 “essential health benefits” under the ACA, these plans became mute.

When the Department of Labor announced loosening the regulations to allow AHPs, we applauded. WIPP submitted comments urging better pooling mechanisms, a wider range of health plan options and protections for those with pre-existing conditions. We also urged the Department to include a different “commonality of interest” definition, allowing small businesses to band together beyond a trade, industry, or profession. This would have allowed small business organizations to offer AHP membership to its members, including WIPP.

On June 21, the man behind the curtain showed up. The Department of Labor issued its new AHP rules. By deciding to keep the definition of who can join an AHP to a trade, industry, or profession, business organizations like WIPP, cannot offer an AHP. For example, an accountant in Nevada could join an AHP housed in a national association of accountants, but an organization of women business owners, does not qualify as a trade, industry, or profession, according to the new rules. The AHP can have out-of-state members but must comply with the rules of the state in which it is housed, restricting its ability to be a true “across state lines” option. Important to note is that AHPs are not required to offer the 10 essential benefits, which means education for employers and employees who join AHPs is needed.

News reports suggested that small business associations who have supported AHPs in their policy platforms are not going to take advantage of the new rules. That’s because they can’t—their commonality is business owners, not limited to a specific trade, industry or profession. Giving small business owners more health insurance options continues to be part of our policy platform. As premiums continue to rise, small business exchanges set up by the ACA should not be the only option. The Department of Labor could have done so much more than use their megaphone.

Paid Family Leave Debated in Senate Finance Committee

Paid family leave was a hot topic in a hearing held by the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy.  Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) testified at the hearing regarding their proposals on paid family leave.

Senator Gillibrand spoke about her Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act), which allows for paid leave funded through taxes on both employees and employers. The proposal also allows leave for circumstances other than a new child. If a person needs to take time to be a caregiver for a sick family member or they themselves need medical leave to treat an illness, they can do so under this proposal.  People would be guaranteed 66 percent of their regular earnings or up to $4,000 a month.

Senator Ernst highlighted the importance of this issue, and shared that she is working with Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee on crafting a paid leave bill that has yet to be introduced.  Notable was her and her Republican colleagues opposition with utilizing taxes on employers or employees to fund paid leave.  She along with Senators Rubio and Lee are looking at how to create a paid leave benefit through Social Security, in which in return for receiving paid leave, participants would defer the collection of their Social Security benefits upon retirement.

Watch the hearing here.

Trump Administration Freezes Billions of Dollars in Payments to Affordable Care Act Risk Adjustment Program

Over the weekend, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a statement saying it was halting billions of dollars of payments to insurers under the Affordable Care Act’s risk adjustment program due to conflicting federal court decisions on the program. This move will likely disrupt the insurance market in the Exchanges and could lead to more premium increases next year.

The purpose of the risk adjustment program, a permanent program, is to reduce the incentive for health insurers to select and cover only healthy individuals in the Exchanges. It shifts money from plans with healthier members to those with larger numbers of sicker members to help mitigate high costs of coverage for less healthy individuals.

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the association for insurance carriers, expressed concern and stated, “the decision will have serious consequences for millions of consumers who get their coverage through small businesses or buy coverage on their own. It will create more market uncertainty and increase premiums for many health plans—putting a heavier burden on small businesses and consumers, and reducing coverage options. And costs for taxpayers will rise as the federal government spends more on premium subsidies.”

The CMS has asked for additional guidance from the district judge overseeing the case relating to this program, prior to unfreezing the funds.

Trump Administration Releases Plan to Reorganize the Federal Government

In a wide-ranging blueprint to overhaul the federal government, the White House released a report entitled, “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century,” which outlined a wide-ranging plan to overhaul the federal government. The blueprint would impact nearly every agency.

This effort stems from an Executive Order signed by President Trump last year which directed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to work on a comprehensive plan to reorganize the executive branch and reduce duplication and redundancy while improving efficiency. Outlined in the report, beginning on page 93, is a recommendation to streamline small business programs across the federal government, specifically citing duplicative programs in the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs.

Programs dealing with small business lending, various certifications and contracting support would be consolidated and managed within the Small Business Administration. If there are contracting programs requiring technical expertise, those programs could continue to reside in their current agency. Per the report, the goal would be to “strengthen and streamline SBA’s operations across two of its primary program areas: 1) capital access; and 2) Government contracting support.”

It is important to note that most of these actions would require congressional approval.

Administration Eases Restrictions on Association Health Plans

Due to a move by the Trump Administration, the Department of Labor released the final version of its Association Health Plan rule, which allows industries and small businesses to band together via bona fide associations to buy insurance as part of a plan to encourage competition in health insurance markets and lower the cost of coverage. AHPs will be an important part of employer options for coverage beginning in 2019.

The Association Health Plan (AHP) rule broadens the definition of an employer under ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, to allow more groups to form association health plans across state lines, similar to large employers. Key provisions in the final AHP rule include:

  • Expansion of definition of those that can form an Association Health Plan (AHP) – An association that represents a single trade, specific industry or profession can now establish an AHP that provides coverage to their members across the entire country, like a large employer plan. General business organizations and workers, or business owners in unrelated professions can band together to obtain coverage through an association health plan, but they must be in the same geographic region. While this allows for a breadth of types of AHPs – national, statewide or local – by restricting criteria of commonality to establish AHPs across state lines, many existing national associations will be unable to set up AHPs and provide access to affordable insurance options to their members.
  • Association Health Plans (AHPs) can bypass certain requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – AHPs do not have to meet ACA essential health benefits requirements, thus they do not have to cover all the benefits that are currently required in the health insurance plans presently sold in the state exchanges. While this will allow AHPs more flexibility in customizing plan options, and likely result in lower premium costs, it is important for business owners and workers to note that these plans will likely offer less comprehensive coverage.
  • Association health plans cannot restrict membership based on health status or charge sicker individuals higher premiums – An AHP will operate like a large employer plan and includes nondiscrimination rules ensuring the association cannot deny coverage to anyone that meets their membership requirements and wants to purchase coverage. AHPs can adjust premium costs of members based on age, which is similar to age rating rules in current ACA health exchanges.

WIPP has supported the implementation of AHPs as an effective mechanism for small businesses to pool together to obtain affordable health insurance. WIPP submitted comments to the Department of Labor on the proposed Association Health Plan rule, highlighting that WIPP believes that a successful healthcare market should encompass three core principles: an effective pooling mechanism, a wide array of health plan options, and a protection in place for those with pre-existing conditions.

In addition, WIPP recommended including an additional criterion for commonality of interest to allow employers to band together for the purpose of establishing an AHP through a membership organization or association that is comprised of members regardless of whether they are in the same trade, industry, line of business or profession, and regardless of whether they are located in the same area. Unfortunately, as highlighted above, the Department of Labor did not agree with this more expansive view, leaving national business organizations like WIPP unable to set up an AHP across state lines.

The Department of Labor shared a fact sheet on the new rule that noted important dates for associations or business owners interested in AHPs:

  • All associations (new or existing) may establish a fully-insured AHP on September 1, 2018.
  • Existing associations that sponsored an AHP on or before the date the Final Rule was published may establish a self-funded AHP on January 1, 2019.
  • All other associations (new or existing) may establish a self-funded AHP on April 1, 2019.

Although the Affordable Care Act envisioned state exchanges rather than AHPs, WIPP believes there is room for both. Though the Obamacare Exchanges initially gave small businesses more coverage options, many plans have dropped coverage, leaving the small business market with fewer coverage options and premium costs have risen year over year. The expansion of AHPs would provide more cost-effective coverage options for small businesses and the self-employed.

April Policy Watch #HillUpdate: The House Has Been Busy Tackling IRS Reforms, Financial Rules, the Next NDAA & More

HSBC Chairman Chabot Urges Inclusion of Small Business Bills in FY19 NDAA

Last week before the House Committee on Armed Services, Chairman Steve Chabot of the House Small Business Committee urged members to incorporate a package of 13 bipartisan small business bills in the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. The bills include legislation addressing SBA loan programs and technical assistance programs such as Women Business Centers, small business lending, cybersecurity, government contracting, and other issues impacting small business.

Read a full accounting of bills included in the package can be found here.

Watch Chairman Chabot’s testimony.

Legislation to Reform & Modernize the IRS Makes it Out of House Ways & Means

The House Ways and Means Committee last week approved the passage of the Taxpayer First Act (H.R. 5445), legislation sponsored by Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and ranking member John Lewis (D-GA). The bill would improve the independent appeals process, taxpayer services and enforcement. It also updates the IRS and Tax Court structure.

Click here to learn more about the legislation and other recent bills relating to IRS reform passed out by the House Ways & Means Committee.

House Passes Bill to Ease Financial Regulations with Goal of Improving Lending

The House approved H.R. 4790, the Volcker Rule Regulatory Harmonization Act by a vote of 300-104. The legislation would exempt banks with total assets of $10 billion or less and comprised of 5% or less of trading assets and liabilities from the Volcker Rule. The rule prohibits banking agencies from engaging in proprietary trading or entering into certain relationships with hedge funds and private-equity funds. The bill would also grant exclusive rulemaking authority under the Volcker Rule to the Federal Reserve Board. The intent of the legislation is to alleviate the compliance burden on small banks, which would help improve capital markets and lending, especially to small business.

Read more

With Possible Trade War Looming, HSBC Holds hearing on the State of Trade for Small Business

The House Small Business Committee heard from a panel of business owners and experts on the state of international trade for small businesses. The hearing’s focus was the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Grant Program and the federal government’s overall efforts to increase small business exports. However, with tariffs proposed by the administration and discussion of a possible trade war with China, witnesses highlighted how recent activity would impact their businesses and small business exporters at large.

Read submitted testimony or watch the full hearing here.

SBA: Tell us Which Regulations Bother You

SBA Office of Adocacy.jpg

The SBA Office of Advocacy is continuing to host small business roundtables to hear firsthand from small businesses how they are facing regulatory burdens. WIPP encourages you to consider which regulations are problematic for your business and share them with the Office of Advocacy. The best way to do that is to attend one of their meetings!

Roundtables:

Detroit, MI – March 13 – Register HERE

Milwaukee, WI – March 16 – Register HERE

San Antonio, TX – March 19 – Register HERE

Houston, TX – March 20 – Register HERE

Philadelphia, PA – March 22 – Register HERE

Atlanta, GA – April 10 – Register HERE

March Policy Update

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Policy Upate Graphic.pngSCOTUS Punts on DACA (For Now)

Last week, the Supreme Court sent the Trump Administration’s appeal on the President’s order to cancel DACA back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, leaving the program’s March 5 expiration moot. Dreamers will remain protected from deportation until the Court of Appeals renders a decision, which could take months.

Breaking the Bank: WIPP Weighs in on Access to Capital

The Senate continues working through amendments to bipartisan lending legislation today that would lighten regulations imposed on small and mid-sized banks through Dodd-Frank. WIPP has advocated for ending the “one-size-fits-all” approach by calling on Congress to enact legislation to address the regulatory relief needed for smaller lending institutions, thus freeing up capital for small businesses.

Read the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act here. Read WIPP’s Breaking the Bank platform here.

WIPP Urges Expansion of Association Health Plans

In January, the Department of Labor issued a proposed rule that would expand participation in Association Health Plans for small businesses and the self-employed. WIPP urged the department to implement a program that maximizes the number of businesses that can participate in the plans, so that women business owners can provide more choices for affordable health insurance.

Read WIPP’s comments here.

NLRB Reverses Joint Employer Standard

Obama’s legal standard for determining whether joint employers could be held liable for an intertwined business’s workplace issues is back due to a conflict of interest of a board member who did not recuse himself from the case. NLRB granted the parties in the original case the ability to appeal and could rehear the case later this year.

Read the NLRB’s press release here.

2017: A Banner Year for WIPP & Women Business Owners

WIPP was busy this year educating policymakers, women business owners, the media and the public about what women business owners need to succeed. From bringing women entrepreneurs directly to some of the most powerful lawmakers in the country, to meeting women entrepreneurs where they live and do business to educate them on how to bolster their businesses, WIPP was at the forefront of issues impacting women in business in 2017.

A sampling of our (many) accomplishments are highlighted below:

Educating Thousands of Women Business Owners Nationwide

  • WIPP held 12 ChallengeHER events in cities across the country, training more than 2,100 women on the best practices for success in federal contracting; including 5 match making events with federal agencies and primes.  WIPP has educated more than 10,000 attendees through its classes that range from those who are new to the process to those highly experienced. Learn more about ChallengeHER, and read about some of the success stories that have come out of the program.
  • WIPP produced 30 Give Me 5 training webinars increasing the free, on-line curriculum to approximately 120 downloadable recordings.  Reaching over 3,000 people this year, these training webinars were taught by industry specialist and federal contracting experts.
  • More than 200 women business owners joined WIPP and Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers for a discussion on venture funding and women owned small business. The discussion explored how to encourage venture capital investment in women, the process of lending for SBICs, and how women business owners can approach venture capitalists.

Impacting Policy at the Highest Levels

  • The president signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law, which includes a provision directing the Small Business Administration to study small business participation on Multiple Award Contracts. The SBA study is in response to a WIPP report revealing that women small business owners are being shut out of large government contracts. Learn more about WIPP’s study.
  • WIPP surveyed 515 WIPP-affiliated women business owners nationwide on how they use the tax code and worked with American University’s Kogod Tax Policy Center to use the survey data to research how the tax code impacts women business owners. The survey data – together with Kogod’s review of existing tax research on the topic – suggests that many women-owned companies are unable to fully access more than $255 billion worth of tax incentives Congress has designed to help small businesses. The study was picked up exclusively by the Associated Press and was featured in hundreds of papers across the country. Learn more about the report in an op-ed WIPP President Jane Campbell authored in Entrepreneur magazine.
  • WIPP brought women business owners to Washington to testify at tax hearings and help inform the framework for the House Small Business agenda.
  • WIPP’s Economic Blueprint, which outlines a range of economic policy recommendations lawmakers can follow to help women entrepreneurs thrive, was featured in Forbes. Read WIPP President Jane Campbell’s op-ed outlining WIPP’s Economic Blueprint in The Hill.
  • WIPP secured powerful politicians to speak at WIPP’s annual conference so they could hear directly from women business owners on what they want out of Washington. Lawmakers included House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), House and Senate small business committee tax experts and Senate Small Business Committee leadership.
  • WIPP’s advocacy efforts throughout the tax reform debate—which included submitting comments to the Senate Finance Committee urging parity for pass through entities and repeal of the estate and AMT taxes—were instrumental in securing a pass-through carve out, along with the agreement to double the estate tax exemption from the current $5.6 million per individual to $11.2 million ($22 million for couples). WIPP members authored op-eds, letters to the editor and did interviews with reporters on the issue to ensure the women-owned business perspective was breaking through.
  • WIPP’s advocacy team worked to maintain funding for programs important to WIPP, such as the Women’s Business Centers, microloan lending programs and more.
  • WIPP submitted testimony to Congress and statements to the media urging stability of the small business health insurance marketplaces and that Congress keep in place a pooling mechanism for small businesses to buy health insurance.
  • WIPP encouraged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to support the implementation of Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act requiring financial institutions to gather and report data on small business lending, including applications made by women and minority owners. Read our press statement and our comments to the CFPB.
  • WIPP supported the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act.
  • WIPP was mentioned in more than 60 news articles in 2017, ensuring the women business owner perspective was heard throughout national debates around tax reform, the federal budget, entrepreneurship and more. We had articles in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Financial Times, The Hill newspaper, The Atlantic, the Business Journals, Reuters, the Associated Press, Morning Consult, Bloomberg, the Chicago Tribune, NBC and many more.

Supporting Small Businesses on Small Business Saturday

  • 2017 saw record support from business organizations through the Small Business Saturday Coalition, the national grassroots initiative that WIPP leads to promote Small Business Saturday, with more than 575 organizations nationwide supporting small businesses on Small Business Saturday—an 18% increase over previous years.
  • Organizations WIPP engaged to support Small Business Saturday included the National Retail Federation, Association of Women’s Business Centers, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., and SCORE, as did local organizations such as the Chicago Public Library, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Iowa and many, many others.
  • WIPP’s leadership around the Small Business Saturday Coalition was instrumental in promoting 7,200 events and activities celebrating Small Business Saturday nationwide, engaging more than 2.2 million small businesses.
  • The Coalition secured 653 mayoral proclamations in support of Small Business Saturday nationwide and ensure numerous public service announcements were issued promoting the day.
  • WIPP secured passage of a Senate Resolution designating Small Business Saturday and introduction of House Resolution and engaged 240 Members of Congress in Small Business Saturday activities.

WIPP In the News: December 2017

WIPP officials, members and activities drew media attention on issues ranging from tax reform to Small Business Saturday. Check out the 10 media hits featuring WIPP over the last month.

The Hill: Tax Bill Isn’t Perfect But a step in the Right Direction

Forbes: Female Business Owner Feeling Set-Aside? Consider This Option

Epoch Times: Republicans Forge Ahead with Tax Reform

Fosters Daily Democrat: Small Business Saturday posts impressive numbers

Niagara Frontier: Reports: Estimated 43% of American adults shopped or dined small on Small Business Saturday

Survey: Small Business Saturday Inspires Consumers to Shop Local

The Journal News: Port Chester to make Nov. 25 Small Business Day

Market Business Insider: Nine-in-Ten U.S. Consumers Say Small Business Saturday Has Had a Positive Impact on Their Community

The Eagle: Tax reform would boost women-owned businesses

Vision Times Media: Helping women entrepreneurs get federal contracts