September 28, 2021
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McCarthy and Leader McConnell:
The American Benefits Council ("the Council") strongly supports many of the policy objectives included in the Build Back Better Act (BBBA). This includes universal paid leave, lowering prescription drug costs, parity between mental health and physical health benefits, auto-Individual Retirement Accounts for workers whose employers do not sponsor retirement plans, and other provisions.
These measures, if appropriately structured, could have a very beneficial impact on the health and financial security of U.S. workers and their families. Therefore, it is with great regret that we express concern about the specifics of how many of these matters are addressed within the legislation.
The American Benefits Council (“the Council”) advocates for employers dedicated to best-in-class solutions that protect and encourage the health and financial well-being of workers, retirees and families. The Council’s members, include over 220 of the world’s largest corporations, and collectively the entire membership either sponsors directly or supports health, retirement and paid leave programs covering virtually all Americans who receive those benefits through employer-sponsored arrangements.
The Council’s members have extensive experience in the design and operation of benefit programs and we always offer that expertise to help Congress develop legislation that protects and strengthens the employer-sponsored system through which the vast majority of Americans receive this vital financial protection.
To be constructive in sharing our members’ employee benefits expertise we have linked in this communication very specific analyses of BBBA’s benefit plan provisions. Where applicable, we commend parts of the legislation we are pleased to support and identify measures that, though well-intentioned, run a high risk of jeopardizing the benefit programs that millions of American enjoy and rely upon.
For nearly 50 years, uniformity in plan design and administration for nationwide employers has been a bedrock of employee benefits policy. Regrettably, the rules governing budget reconciliation present obstacles to crafting legislation that is administrable for nationwide employers and equitable for the employees of the same company who perform the same job but live or work in different states.
It is important to underscore that many of the concerns and unanswered questions noted by the Council cannot be adequately addressed in the regulatory process that will inevitably follow enactment of such significant legislation. Either the policy directive in the BBBA is misaligned with administrable and equitable benefit plan operations or the legislation does not give regulatory agencies the statutory authority to implement what is needed to permit the laudable policy objectives to be achieved. Congress must get this right in the legislation itself.
Finally, the effective dates for many of the new programs and other provisions in the BBBA are not realistic for either employer benefit plan sponsors or for the federal government itself. To avoid massive disruption and confusion there must be sufficient lead time to implement these significant changes.
Because the Council supports so many of the goals set forth in the BBBA, we urge Congress to address these matters before the legislation is enacted. As always, the Council and its members stand ready to assist you in this task.
James A. Klein