“Change is the only constant in life.”
– Heraclitus, Greek Philosopher
One week ago, more than 129 million Americans cast their ballots and chose the 45th President of the United States of America. How is the Trump presidency going to affect the world of ERISA and Employee Benefits Law? As a business owner, executive, or HR professional, how will policy changes over the coming years affect one’s ability to grow a business, attract and retain key executives, and avoid costly legal penalties due to non-compliance? For many, the results of this year’s presidential election were unexpected, and as evidenced by the media’s predictions, completely unpredictable. In times of uncertainty, Hall Benefits Law remains vigilant and true to our goal of providing sound legal counsel during political and economic turbulence, regardless of the individual or political party occupying the White House.
Facts: Affordable Care Act and other federal regulations remain the law of the land. No changes appear imminent for the laws that govern Executive Compensation. Businesses that run afoul of the Internal Revenue Service or Department of Labor will be faced with costly penalties. Regardless of the changes under a new administration, businesses must be prepared to comply with all applicable laws.
While it’s unclear which policies will remain the same, which ones will change, and which ones will be eliminated with Trump as president, there’s no doubt that change is coming.
- Prior to the election, president-elect Trump repeatedly stated he would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Post-election, Trump’s stance softened, and recent statements indicate that not all aspects of the Affordable Care Act will be scrapped.
- Trump does not like the “artificial lines around every state” created by the ACA, and he has stated repeatedly that he wants Americans to be able to purchase health insurance across state lines.
- While Trump targeted 2010’s Dodd-Frank Act, he never addressed DOL’s fiduciary rule with any specificity during his campaign. His stated plan to place a moratorium on new federal regulations implies the fiduciary rule may be a target after all.
- Under ERISA, Trump’s Secretary of Labor may NOT simply choose to say he or she will not enforce an existing rule, so immediate changes would have to be made by postponing the effective date of the rule or by requesting a voluntary remand by presiding judges. Changes to the rule could also be made through legislative action. The rule generally takes effect in April 2017, while some portions are not slated to take effect until January 2018.
- There is too much uncertainty on Trump’s views to simply assume he will be in favor of eliminating or drastically changing the DOL fiduciary rule. Based on Trump’s populist campaign rhetoric, one could make an argument that Trump is just as likely to keep the consumer protection-oriented rule on the books as he is to scrap it.
- Trump wants to repeal the Cadillac tax, an excise tax of 40% on the cost of health coverage that exceeds thresholds of $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for families.
- Trump has promised “six weeks of paid maternity leave to any mother with a newborn child whose employer does not provide the benefit.” It’s unclear whether Trump’s proposal will affect same-sex couples.
While we can’t yet know for sure how Trump’s presidency will affect the world of employee benefits, we do know what he stated during his campaign. It will be interesting to see where Trump and a Republican-controlled congress act and where they do not, and we will be sure to include related news in our future updates.
Hall Benefits Law will remain abreast of political and economic issues that affect businesses, and we will pivot as required to guide our clients through the uncertain, ever-changing landscape of ERISA and Employee Benefits Law.