American Benefits Council
Benefits Byte


October 13, 2015

The Benefits Byte is the American Benefits Council’s regular e-mail and online newsletter for members only, providing timely reports on legislative, regulatory and judicial developments, along with updates on the Council’s activities in support of employer-sponsored benefit plans.

The Benefits Byte is published by the American Benefits Council, based on staff reports and edited by Jason Hammersla, Council director of communications. Contact information for Council staff related to specific topics can be found at the end of each story.

Click here to read past issues on the Benefits Byte Archive page.

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President Signs ACA Small Employer Reform Bill Into Law

President Obama signed into law the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act (H.R. 1624) on October 7, amending the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) definition of a "small employer" for the purposes of purchasing group insurance policies. The measure received bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. 

Specifically, it will now be optional for states to classify businesses with between 51 and 100 employees as "small employers." Under the ACA, small group plans are subject to more stringent coverage requirements. A recent Congressional Budget Office analysis noted that the bill would likely result in lower premiums for small companies.

While H.R. 1624 does not have direct applicability to the Council's large plan sponsor members, its enactment suggests that on certain select matters, Congress and the President may be able to find common ground on the politically-charged topic of the ACA. Since the law’s enactment, both political parties (for different reasons) have been reluctant to modify the law. From the Republican perspective, there has been a concern that efforts to improve the law will diminish any effort to repeal it entirely. At the same time, Democrats have been reluctant to pursue changes that could contribute momentum to undoing more significant provisions. Enactment of H.R. 1624 is one of the few notable exceptions over the past few years where both sides have shown a willingness to work together.

For more information, contact Katy Spangler, senior vice president, health policy, at (202) 289-6700.

Tom Reeder Confirmed as PBGC Director

The U.S. Senate voted on October 8 to approve W. Thomas Reeder Jr. as the new director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), the quasi-governmental entity tasked with providing benefits to participants of defined benefit pension plans that terminated with insufficient assets. Alice Maroni had been serving as the agency’s acting director since the departure of Joshua Gotbaum in August 2014.

The Council has worked with Reeder extensively for many years, most recently while he served as health care counsel at the Internal Revenue Service, following stints as senior benefits counsel for the Senate Finance Committee and in various counsel positions in the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Tax Policy.

In a statement to Bloomberg BNA, Council President James Klein said that Reeder “has been a thoughtful and dedicated public servant for decades, and will bring a fresh perspective to the PBGC's challenges. We look forward to working with him as we always have in the past.”

The PBGC is expected to release its annual report within the next several weeks, stating the agency’s financial status. As we reported in the September 28 Benefits Byte,the agency recently issued its Fiscal Year 2014 Projections Report, revealing that the financial condition of the single-employer pension insurance program continues to improve, while problems continue to persist in the multi-employer insurance program.

For more information, contact Lynn Dudley, senior vice president, global retirement and compensation policy, or Jan Jacobson, senior counsel, retirement policy, at (202) 289-6700.

A Bit About Your Benefits: Council Webinars

Just saw an email notice of an upcoming Council webinar and want to join in?

Upon receiving a session notice, you can register through the RSVP link in the email by clicking through the entire short series of screens to the last one containing the OK button. Hitting OK automatically generates a confirmation email from the Council with the webinar access information you need. This can also be used when you self-submit for continuing education credit. Please do NOT forward this email on to anyone else as all participants must be individually registered.

We encourage members to view webinar sessions in groups such as in a conference room at your organization. If you and your colleagues plan to do this, Council staff can help ensure each individual receives credit for participation.

If possible, please submit your questions in advance to the webinar moderator. Each session notice identifies the Council staff member to whom these should be addressed. All questions submitted in advance or asked during the webinar are answered on an anonymous basis, so the person posing the question is not identified.

If a webinar is scheduled at a time when you will not have computer access, there are a couple of options. If you will be able to listen by phone only, we can provide you with a personalized dial-in number, which will be emailed to you one-half hour prior to the start of the session. Alternatively, a free recording of every session is available to Council members upon request within several hours of the live webinar. Please contact our staff as far in advance as possible to request this, as dial-in information must be individually generated for each person once the webinar session begins.

For more information, contact Deanna Johnson, director, membership; Sondra Williams, manager, member & staff engagement; or Mary Lindsay, receptionist, at (202) 289-6700.

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.

Notice: the information contained herein is general in nature. It is not, and should not be construed as, accounting, consulting, legal or tax advice or opinion provided by the American Benefits Council or any of its employees. As required by the IRS, we inform you that any information contained herein was not intended or written to be used or referred to, and cannot be used or referred to (i) for the purpose of avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) in promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein (and any attachment).