December 14, 2004
BB 04—124

In this issue:

  • Agencies Announce Agendas for 401(k), Deferred Compensation, and Erie County Regulations
  • 2005 Outlook: Expected Senate HELP Committee Chairman Outlines Priorities

Agencies Announce Agendas for 401(k), Deferred Compensation, and Erie County Regulations

Federal government agencies have released their semiannual regulatory agendas providing information on anticipated upcoming regulatory projects.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) intends to issue final 401(k) regulations and automatic rollover guidance by the end of the year with proposed Roth 401(k) guidance shortly after that, according to government agency sources contacted by the Council. The Treasury Department and the IRS will also propose transition guidance for deferred compensation plans very shortly with additional guidance expected in 2005. The Equal Opportunity Commission included on its agenda finalizing rules for employers coordinating retiree health benefits with Medicare (addressing the so-called "Erie County" issue.)

The IRS, Department of Labor, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and Department of Health and Human Services anticipate working on many separate regulatory projects affecting retirement, non-qualified deferred compensation, and health plans. While agencies are not bound by their agendas, their publication does provide insight regarding the administration's priorities.

For more information, please contact Jan Jacobson, Council director, retirement policy (retirement issues) or Susan Relland, Council health policy legal counsel (health issues) at (202) 289-6700.

2005 Outlook: Expected Senate HELP Committee Chairman Outlines Priorities

Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), who is expected to assume the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) in January 2005, has outlined his legislative priorities for the next congressional session. (Outgoing HELP Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NJ) is stepping aside to assume the chair of the Senate Budget Committee.)

With his health care policy agenda, Enzi will seek to combat health care costs "through market-oriented solutions that combine consumer choice with more information about the quality and value of healthcare providers, procedures and … health information technology." Enzi also intends to promote legislation that will improve patient safety, drug safety, and access to health care. (Previously introduced legislation such as the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act (S. 720) may be the starting point for these discussions.) Medical liability reform, a centerpiece of President Bush's election campaign, may also be addressed in the HELP Committee.

Enzi also anticipates "undertaking comprehensive pension reform to stabilize the private pension system." This could include changes to pension funding rules and a reexamination of hybrid pension plan designs. Other possible agenda items include investment advice legislation, following on Enzi's own previously introduced Retirement Security Advice Act (S. 1698).

Along with his legislative priorities, Enzi also promised increased scrutiny of the Departments of Health, Education and Labor, as well as the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which recently reported a year-end deficit of $23.3 billion.

For more information on the health policy outlook for 2005, contact Maria Ghazal, Council director, health policy (health issues), or Diann Howland, Council vice president, retirement policy (retirement issues), at (202) 289-6700.

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The American Benefits Council is the national trade association for companies concerned about federal legislation and regulations affecting all aspects of the employee benefits system. The Council's members represent the entire spectrum of the private employee benefits community and either sponsor directly or administer retirement and health plans covering more than 100 million Americans.