Olivia Grady

ATR, CWF Applaud DOL’s New Rule on Small Business Health Plans

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Posted by Olivia Grady on Tuesday, June 19th, 2018, 2:00 PM PERMALINK

Today, the Department of Labor announced a new rule on Small Business Health Plans, also known as Association Health Plans (AHPs).

The new rule allows small businesses and sole proprietors to join together to provide more affordable health insurance for their employees and themselves.

Under ObamaCare, small businesses face benefit mandates and rating restrictions, which large businesses do not. The result has been higher insurance costs for small businesses, leading to a smaller percentage of small businesses offering health-care coverage. For the self-employed, premiums have more than doubled between 2013 and 2017. AHPs, however, will help equalize the regulatory burden between small and large companies because they allow small businesses to join together as if they were a large business.  

This new rule expands healthcare coverage by allowing employers to form an AHP on the basis of geography or industry. It also allows sole proprietors to join Small Business Health Plans for the first time ever.

By joining together, employers can reduce administrative costs through economies of scale, obtain more favorable deals due to greater bargaining power, have more opportunities to self-insure and offer more insurance options.

Currently, up to 11 million Americans who work for a small business or operate a sole proprietorship do not have employer-provided health coverage. However, with this rule, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that four million Americans will join a Small Business Health Plan by 2023. 400,000 of these Americans do not have health insurance now.

The new rule does not affect previously existing AHPs. These plans can continue as before if they choose.

The Labor Department will protect consumers by monitoring the AHPs through the annual reports they are required to file. The Department will also work with state insurance commissioners to prevent fraud. Further, there are health-care antidiscrimination protections and other protections that will now apply to AHPs. Finally, AHPs cannot charge higher premiums or deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or cancel coverage if someone becomes ill.

This rule follows President Donald Trump’s October 12th Executive Order 13813, “Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States.” The Executive Order required Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta to consider proposing new regulations to expand health care coverage by allowing more employers to form Association Health Plans.

Americans for Tax Reform and the Center for Worker Freedom strongly approve of this new rule, which will offer more healthcare options for Americans at lower prices. 


ATR Supports King’s Bill to Reduce Social Security Fraud

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Posted by Olivia Grady on Thursday, June 7th, 2018, 12:25 PM PERMALINK

On June 5, 2018, Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced H.R. 6006, the Social Security Integrity Act.

The purpose of the Act is to reduce the fraud and waste documented in a 2015 Audit Report by the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The Office of the Inspector General released the report entitled “Numberholders Age 112 or Older Who Did Not Have a Death Entry on the Numident.” on March 4, 2015.

The report found that the SSA could not add death information to its Numident records for those who were likely deceased. The SSA discovered that it had records without death information for about 6.5 million people who were age 112 or older. It has since reduced this number to 5 million. In addition, while the SSA had added death dates to about 1.4 million non-beneficiaries’ payment records, they had not recorded the information on the Numident, the database on all who have applied for social security numbers. Similarly, the SSA had stopped payments and added death dates for over 400,000 beneficiaries’ payment records, but had not added the information to the Numident.   

The report also concluded Social Security numbers could have been used to commit identity fraud. For example, there were 66,920 social security numbers used where the employees’ names did not match the numberholders’ names. Further, from 2008 through 2011, employers made 4,042 E-Verify inquiries using 3,873 social security numbers whose numberholders were born before 1901.

Based on these findings, the Office of the Inspector General gave four recommendations. The first recommendation was to add the death information to the nearly 50,000 “Death Claim” Numident records without a death entry. The second recommendation was to add death dates from the Master Beneficiary Record to the Numident records of the 1.4 million non-beneficiaries. The third recommendation was to find out whether the SSA could correct the 5 million remaining records in the audit, and the final recommendation was to resolve discrepancies when, for example, multiple individuals appeared on the same Numident record.

Congressman Steve King’s bill would require the Commissioner of Social Security to implement these recommendations within three years of the bill’s enactment. In addition, the Commissioner would submit a report to Congress on the status of the implementation.

Americans for Tax Reform strongly supports the Social Security Integrity Act because it protects taxpayers and social security beneficiaries from fraud and waste. 


Another Tax Reform Win: Jobs Report Trumps Predictions

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Posted by Olivia Grady on Friday, June 1st, 2018, 2:24 PM PERMALINK

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly labor report for the month of May. 

The jobs report was a resounding victory for tax reform and free market policies (Even the New York Times had a positive article about the jobs report!).

The economy in May added an astounding 223,000 jobs, much higher than the 190,000 jobs that Wall Street economists predicted. It also extended the record for the longest continuous jobs expansion.

As a result of these numbers, the unemployment rate fell again to 3.8%, the lowest since early 2000. Average earnings also rose by 8 cents an hour, increasing average earnings by 2.7% over the past year.

Further, the unemployment rate for women in May was the lowest at 3.6% since 1953. Also, unemployment rates for blacks and Latinos are near record lows. Teenagers and those without high-school diplomas are finding jobs as well.

Simply put, the economy is booming.

American workers can thank the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans for this good news. Because of tax reform and free market policies, Americans are better off today than they were when President Donald Trump was elected.

Americans today have more job opportunities, better paying jobs, and higher take home pay from lower taxes.

In fact, 90% of wage earners have higher take home pay because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. More than 4 million Americans have received pay raises, bonuses, and other benefits since the bill’s passage. In addition, pension plan contributions increased in 2017. Finally, utilities are lowering their rates.

President Trump and Congressional Republicans have kept their promises to the American people. 


ATR, CWF Applaud President Trump on Civil Service Reform

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Posted by Olivia Grady on Friday, May 25th, 2018, 6:03 PM PERMALINK

President Donald Trump today signed three Executive Orders aimed at reforming the civil service and supporting American taxpayers.

The first Executive Order encourages agencies to negotiate contracts with labor organizations in less than a year. Shortening this bargaining time will lead to better union contracts and will save U.S. taxpayers money. The long bargaining times are costly because taxpayers pay the salaries of union negotiators. In fact, in 2016 alone, the salaries of union negotiators cost taxpayers $16 million. In addition, the Executive Order makes federal collective bargaining more transparent by requiring the publication of union contracts in a public online database. Finally, this Executive Order creates a Labor Relations Working Group.

The second Executive Order directly addresses official time, the policy that federal government workers spend some or all of their time working for the union while being paid by U.S. taxpayers. Representative Mark Meadows (Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; R-NC) just held a hearing yesterday on official time and released a memo noting that the Office of Personnel Management estimated that just the payroll costs alone for employees on official time in 2016 were $177.2 million. These costs, however, are likely higher.

This Executive Order requires agencies to renegotiate contracts with unions to cut official time by an average of two-thirds. In addition, federal employees will only be allowed to spend a maximum of 25% of their time on union work. This will allow the agencies to get more work done. The Social Security Administration, for example, estimates it could complete 17,000 more disability determinations annually if official time was eliminated. In addition, employees who use Federal office space for non-agency business will have to pay rent, and their travel expenses for non-agency business will no longer be reimbursed. These reforms will also save U.S. taxpayers at least $100 million a year.

The final Executive Order strengthens the merit system of federal employees by streamlining the process to fire poor employees. The current process is lengthy and hurts federal agencies. Tenured federal employees, for example, are 44 times less likely to be removed from their positions than private sector workers. In some cases, employees have stolen federal property and not been fired. In addition, it takes 6 months to one year to fire these employees and an additional 8 months if there is an appeal. This Order also requires agencies to report information on disciplinary actions and management of poor performers to the Office of Personnel Management for publication so that poor performers will not be rehired by other agencies.  

Americans for Tax Reform and the Center for Worker Freedom applaud President Trump on these important reforms that will strengthen the federal workforce and save taxpayers money. 


ATR, CWF Support NLRB Rulemaking on Joint Employer

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Posted by Olivia Grady on Tuesday, May 15th, 2018, 4:21 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform and the Center for Worker Freedom applaud the National Labor Relations Board’s decision to consider rulemaking to clarify the joint-employer standard under the National Labor Relations Act.

In 2015, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), whose members were appointed by President Barack Obama at the time, issued a decision in Browning-Ferris that has confused and harmed small businesses. That decision changed and expanded the definition of joint employer to include businesses that only have an indirect control over employees, dramatically increasing their liability. Unfortunately, the result has been that large businesses have tried to limit their liability by providing fewer services to their franchisees. These small businesses have suffered great harm as a result and have been unable to hire as many people.

The new standard also has confused businesses. Under this new standard, the Board determines case-by-case whether there is a joint employer. Under the previous standard of direct and immediate control, businesses knew if they were a joint employer.

Because of its harm to small businesses and employees, Americans for Tax Reform and the Center for Worker Freedom support changing the joint-employer standard back to direct and immediate control.

More from Americans for Tax Reform


ATR Supports the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act

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Posted by Olivia Grady on Wednesday, May 9th, 2018, 3:29 PM PERMALINK

This week, the House of Representatives will take up H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, sponsored by Congressman John Shimkus (R-Ill.).

H.R. 3053 has been approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on a bipartisan vote of 49-4. Americans for Tax Reform now urges all members of the House to vote for this bipartisan, commonsense legislation.

Currently, there is no permanent geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel and waste in the United States. The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act was supposed to allow the Department of Energy (DOE) to build and operate a repository, and electricity ratepayers have actually paid over $40 billion to the Department for this project.

However, the repository has not been built yet. This is despite DOE studies in 1987 showing that Yucca Mountain was a top site, and Congress even enacted a resolution designating Yucca Mountain for a repository.

Because a repository wasn’t built before a 1998 deadline, the Department of Energy now owns this waste, and taxpayers have to pay nuclear utilities to store the fuel and waste. In fact, American taxpayers now owe over $34 billion to the nuclear utilities for this storage.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act would stop wasted taxpayer dollar and would encourage the storage of the waste in a repository. One possible location for a repository is still Yucca Mountain, and there is a license pending from 2008. The act would resolve the pending license and begin the formal licensing process to determine if the repository can be built.

If the bill is passed, the Department of Energy would also be allowed to start a temporary storage program to consolidate the waste. The act also allows for defense-waste to be quickly removed from Department of Energy sites in order to protect national security. Finally, the Department of Energy program management and organization would be strengthened.

Members of Congress should vote for the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act to end the needless waste of taxpayer resources and electricity ratepayer fees and finally move forward on construction of a waste repository. 

Photo Credit: Flickr


ATR Supports Rep. Westerman's Amendment 185 to the FAA Bill

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Posted by Olivia Grady on Monday, April 23rd, 2018, 4:15 PM PERMALINK

Today, Americans for Tax Reform released a letter in support of Representative Bruce Westerman's (R-AR) amendment 185 to the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4).

Americans for Tax Reform supports this amendment because it will keep prices low for customers, clarify the law for airlines, and prevent frivolous lawsuits.

You can find the letter below or click here for a PDF version:

April 23, 2018

The Honorable Pete Sessions
Chairman, Committee on Rules
United States House of Representatives
H-312 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Sessions:

I am writing to urge you to allow Representative Bruce Westerman’s (R- AR) amendment  (#185) to the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4) to be offered on the House floor.

The amendment simply includes pay and scheduling of a flight crew under federal jurisdiction in order to avoid frivolous lawsuits and the regulation of flight crew by many states and local governments.

Unfortunately, some flight attendants have recently used the lack of clear language in the law to challenge their pay in frivolous lawsuits. They claim they are owed the minimum wage in each of the states and local governments that they fly over. However, if the airlines were forced to follow all of the state and local regulations, it would be extremely costly and burdensome. They would have difficulty following the laws of state and local governments since flights typically fly through a number of jurisdictions during a flight.

A federal preemption of pay and scheduling of a flight crew clarifies the law for the airlines and allows the airlines to follow just one law, instead of at least 37 different pay and scheduling laws from the states and local governments.

Further, the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 already preempts states and local governments from regulating airline prices, routes and services. This preemption has led to efficiency, low prices, and a variety of quality air transportation services.

Americans for Tax Reform supports Amendment 185 because it will keep prices low for customers, clarify the law for airlines, and prevent frivolous lawsuits.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform


New Trump Admin Healthcare Rule Will Expand Healthcare Coverage and Lower Costs

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Posted by Olivia Grady on Wednesday, February 21st, 2018, 3:38 PM PERMALINK

The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury yesterday proposed increasing the flexibility over short-term, limited duration health insurance. The rule calls for increasing the maximum duration for these plans from 3 months to 12 months.

Extending this time period for short-term coverage will help those between jobs or taking a semester off from school. It will also give families across the country real healthcare choice at an affordable price. An unsubsidized ACA-compliant plan costs about $393 per month, while a short term, limited-duration plan costs about $124 a month.  

President Trump has focused on lowering the cost of healthcare and expanding coverage during his Presidency given the failure of Obamacare in recent years. Under Obamacare, families have been forced to purchase unaffordable plans, access to care has decreased, while premiums have skyrocketed. According to the Department of Health and Services, from 2013 to 2017, average premiums, for example, have more than doubled, while half of U.S. counties have only one insurance carrier. 

The administration should be commended for taking this important step forward in promoting healthcare and allowing consumers more options when purchasing in healthcare coverage.

While this is an important step forward toward promoting affordable healthcare and flexibility, it is still just one step.

The Trump administration and Congress have achieved other victories, such as the repeal of the individual mandate tax penalty in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This granted massive tax relief to low-income families across the country as 80 percent of those who paid the penalty who paid the penalty earned less than $50,000 per year. This bill also did not repeal the option to purchase healthcare, every American that was eligible for Obamacare and for the Obamacare subsidies are still eligible for them. The only difference is there is no penalty for not purchasing insurance.  

Even so, more work remains to be done.

Republicans should act to delay and repeal the nearly 20 new or higher Obamacare taxes. They should also promote consumer choice through the expansion of HSAs while addressing many Obamacare regulations that have increased the cost of care.

Regardless, this rule is an excellent step in the right direction and will provide flexibility to consumers to purchase temporary health insurance that better fits their need.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Support Taxpayers and Consumers: Reform U.S. Sugar Policy Now

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Posted by Olivia Grady on Friday, January 26th, 2018, 12:30 PM PERMALINK

On January 22, 2018, the Coalition for Sugar Reform held an event on Capitol Hill about why the U.S. needs to reform its sugar program.

Dr. Vincent Smith (AEI and Montana State University), Carson Middleton (Congresswoman Virginia Foxx), Bill O’Conner (Sweetener Users Association), Thomas Gremillion (Consumers Federation of America), and Ross Marchand (Taxpayers Protection Alliance) gave persuasive arguments on why the U.S. sugar program is hurting consumers and taxpayers.

The U.S. sugar program raises the price of sugar through four different ways. First, the federal government elevates the price by setting a minimum price for sugar. Second, the government tells the beet processors and cane mills how much sugar they can produce. Third, the United States imposes import quotas even though the U.S. needs sugar imports to meet the demand for sugar. Finally, there is a Feedstock Flexibility Program that requires the government to buy sugar surpluses and sell it to ethanol plants at a lower price.

All of these policies hurt the American consumer and taxpayer and only help a few very wealthy sugar processors.

Because of these policies, American consumers spend about $2.4 - $4 billion more every year. In addition, this program cost 123,000 American manufacturing jobs from 1997 to 2015. Finally, taxpayers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this program, including a nearly $259 million bail out to big sugar corporations for loan defaults in 2013.

U.S. Representatives Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Danny Davis (D-IL) and U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), however, have offered a bipartisan solution: the Sugar Policy Modernization Act of 2017 (H.R. 4265/S. 2086).

This Act would reform the U.S. sugar program. First, the Act ensures that taxpayers are no longer responsible for loan defaults by large sugar processors. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would no longer have to set import quotas and would have more flexibility in administering the program. The marketing allotments and the Feedstock Flexibility Program would also be repealed.  

The U.S. sugar program is the only commodity program that wasn’t reformed in the last Farm Bill. The time to reform this program is now.

Because of its negative effects on taxpayers, consumers, and small businesses, Americans for Tax Reform supports reforming the sugar program and supports the Sugar Policy Modernization Act.


ATR and CWF Support Multiemployer Pension Plan Reform


Posted by Olivia Grady on Tuesday, December 5th, 2017, 5:06 PM PERMALINK

Today, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and the Center for Worker Freedom (CWF) released a letter to Congress, urging members to reform multiemployer pension plans.

[The letter can be found here]

As the letter says, there are 100 multiemployer pension plans that will likely become insolvent if Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MEPRA) benefits are not reduced. Insolvent pension plans would have a negative impact on the U.S. economy. In order to avoid this, ATR and CWF urge members of Congress to consider long-term federal government loans at a low interest to the troubled pension plans. Supporting this proposal would not break the members’ Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

The full letter is below:

Dear Member of Congress:

We write to urge Congress to reform multiemployer pension plans because of the negative impact insolvent pension plans would have on the U.S. economy, the federal government, and all Americans.

Currently, there are 100 multiemployer pension plans that will likely become insolvent if Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MEPRA) benefits are not reduced, according to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Insolvency of these plans would require the PBGC to loan about $60 billion to pay for the guaranteed benefits of 1 million workers and possibly lead to the insolvency of the PBGC itself in 2026. Because of these problems, saving these plans in the future would likely require $600 billion, according to the Heritage Foundation, to pay future claims for the insolvent plans.

One viable solution to this problem is for the federal government to provide long-term loans at a low interest to troubled pension plans. These loans would cover the cash flow shortage of the plans for five years. In addition, the pension plan benefits could be reduced up to 20 percent.

After five years, the pension plans would repay their loans, paying only the interest for the first five years. However, to ensure the loans would be repaid, a Risk Reserve Pool would be established with non-government funds.

Americans for Tax Reform and the Center for Worker Freedom support this proposal because it addresses the problem of insolvent pension plans without providing a government bailout. Long term, policy should increasingly favor defined contribution plans and move away from defined benefit plans, whose profound problems continue to accumulate throughout our economy.

While it is unusual for ATR and CWF to support a solution that continues government loans, when combined with benefit cuts this approach has the potential to stop the bailout that could be triggered by the guarantee already established by law. Supporting this proposal does not break your Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

Sincerely,

Grover Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform

Olivia Grady
Center for Worker Freedom


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