Feb 25 2015
Notice Seeks Comment Regarding Special Carve-Outs for Organized Labor
WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew questioning the Administration’s recent guidance on Obamacare’s “Cadillac plan tax”. The tax is a 40 percent non-deductible excise tax placed on certain healthcare plans under the President’s health care law. The guidance, Notice 2015-16, seeks comment regarding a special allowance for a number of occupation categories, many of which are affiliated with organized labor.
“The cure for this mistake is not a carve out for the President’s political supporters but a repeal that benefits all Americans, including the countless teachers, nurses, and other professionals that will be subject to this tax over time. The structure of this tax creates a draconian policy that will penalize countless Americans with a 40 percent excise tax, whether they are a shop foreman, a factory manager, or an office secretary. Now is not the time to divide workers against one another, creating different rules to protect favored constituencies from a poorly designed, drafted, and implemented law. Instead, we urge you to work with Congress to relieve all Americans from the burdens of the health care,” the chairmen wrote.
The full text of the letter is below and a signed copy is available here.
February 25, 2015
The Honorable Jacob J. Lew
Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220
Dear Secretary Lew:
The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service recently released the Administration’s initial guidance on the “Cadillac plan tax,” a forty percent non-deductible excise tax on certain health care plans created by the President’s health care law. The non-deductible excise tax, codified in Section 4980I of the Internal Revenue Code, applies to the cost of “applicable employer-sponsored coverage” above an annually-adjusted threshold. The threshold operates in much the same way as the Alternative Minimum Tax, and over time will affect more and more middle class workers. The guidance, Notice 2015-16, seeks comment regarding a special allowance for certain occupations categories, most of which are affiliated with organized labor and supported the President’s health care overhaul efforts.
The non-deductible excise tax was long opposed by organized labor, with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka calling it a “stupid mistake,” and officials from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees calling it an “ill-advised tax” and a “bad idea.” While we agree that the tax was, in Mr. Trumka’s words, a “stupid mistake,” the cure for this mistake is not a carve out for the President’s political supporters but a repeal that benefits all Americans, including the countless teachers, nurses, and other professionals that will be subject to this tax over time. The structure of this tax creates a draconian policy that will penalize countless Americans with a 40 percent excise tax, whether they are a shop foreman, a factory manager, or an office secretary.
Now is not the time to divide workers against one another, creating different rules to protect favored constituencies from a poorly designed, drafted, and implemented law. Instead, we urge you to work with Congress to relieve all Americans from the burdens of the health care law. In the meantime, we ask that you respond to the following questions regarding the Administration’s initial guidance. In complying with this request, please respond by repeating the enumerated request, followed by the accompanying response.
How many of the employee categories referenced in the Notice are commonly performed by unionized workers?
Has the Department considered expansion of the organized labor protection to all Americans, regardless of occupational category? If so, describe those considerations.
3. In the years since enactment of the health care law, the Administration has delayed or unilaterally modified several statutory requirements. Has the Administration considered, or is it currently considering, a delay or modification of Section 4980I of the Internal Revenue Code? If so, describe those considerations and when the Administration plans to make public its decision regarding modification or delay.
We ask that you respond to this letter by no later than March 11, 2015.
Feb 25 2015
“Especially in today’s tight economy, there is no reason why Americans should have to pay unreasonably high prices just to repair their cars"
Washington, D.C.-- U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with fellow Senate Judiciary Committee member Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, and House Judiciary Committee members Darrell Issa, R-CA, and Zoe Lofgren, D-CA, introduced the Promoting Automotive Repair, Trade and Sales Act of 2015 (PARTS), a bipartisan, bicameral bill, which would expand consumer choice for automobile collision repair parts, cut costs paid by insurers and drivers, and ensure competition in the automobile repair parts market.
Sen. Hatch said, “Especially in today’s tight economy, there is no reason why Americans should have to pay unreasonably high prices just to repair their cars. The PARTS Act encourages competition in the marketplace by providing consumers with a choice of affordable, quality alternatives to repair their cars.”
“Having to replace a car part is frustrating enough; drivers shouldn’t have to pay artificially high prices set by car manufacturers,” Sen. Whitehouse said. “This bill will preserve competition in the car-parts market and ultimately allow consumers to get safe replacement parts at lower prices.”
“The decision to purchase an automobile is one of the biggest investments a family makes,” Rep. Issa said. “With the average sticker price of a new car now exceeding $30,000 and repair costs continuing to rise, hardworking American families deserve access to as many repair part options as possible. The PARTS Act will not only increase consumer choice therefore reducing aftermarket costs but encourage innovation and competition among other aftermarket parts manufacturers.”
“Millions of Americans depend on their cars to be reliable and affordable so they can get their kids to school, pick up groceries for their family, and drive to work every day,” Rep. Lofgren said. “By bringing real competition and innovation to the auto parts market, we can ensure consumers get the best value for their dollar when they need to shop for safe, high-quality, and reasonably priced replacement parts to keep their cars running.”
The PARTS Act narrowly amends U.S. design patent law to reduce, from 14 years to 30 months (or 2.5 years), the period of time during which it would be an act of infringement—of a car company’s design patent on an external collision repair part (e.g., fender, quarter panel, door)—for an alternative supplier to sell an aftermarket version of such a part for use in repairing a consumer’s car.
However, during that 30-month period it would not be an act of infringement for alternative suppliers to make, test, research and develop such parts on a not-for-sale basis. The current 14-year design patent term prevents aftermarket manufacturers from making or selling external collision repair parts, driving up repair costs by limiting consumer choice, crowding out competition, and leading to higher insurance rates and fees.
The legislation would do nothing to deter car companies from obtaining design patents on their collision parts and enforcing them—up to 14 years—against other car companies.
Feb 24 2015
Senate and House Health Leaders Release Draft Bill to Extend Funding for Children’s Health Insurance
Leaders Seek Thoughtful Solution to Fund Critical SCHIP Program
WASHINGTON, DC – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA), and full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) today released a discussion draft of legislation to extend the critically important State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Extending the program has been a priority for the congressional leaders as funding for SCHIP is scheduled to expire on September 30, 2015. Bipartisan, bicameral committee leaders last year sent letters to the nation’s governors seeking input on the program. The governors generally supported the extension of SCHIP funding and provided a number of ideas to improve the program.
At an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last year, experts from the Congressional Research Service, Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC), and Government Accountability Office testified that hundreds of thousands of children could be uninsured, and millions could face higher cost-sharing in the health law’s exchanges if Congress does not extend the program.
Hatch, Pitts, and Upton are soliciting feedback on the discussion draft that would extend SCHIP funding and sustain access to affordable health coverage for millions of children.
“The State Children’s Health Insurance Program is a vitally important program that has historically received bipartisan support,” commented Hatch, Pitts, and Upton. “Our governors have provided important feedback for how to strengthen this program, and we will continue to work in a thoughtful and transparent manner to provide states the certainty they need as they craft their budgets this spring. We can all come together to ensure kids have access to quality care.”
Read the complete discussion draft online HERE.
Read a one-page summary of the draft online HERE.
Read a detailed summary of the draft online HERE.
To submit feedback on the discussion draft, contact the chairmen’s offices.
Feb 24 2015
Senate and House Leaders Urge President Obama to KeepThe Promise to Seniors and Reverse Course on Harmful Medicare Advantage Cuts
Letter: “We are troubled by the policies in this regulation, which we believe will lead to millions of seniors facing fewer choices, higher costs, and plan cancellations.”
WASHINGTON, DC – Senate and House Republican leaders today sent a letter to President Obama regarding the administration’s proposed cuts to the Medicare Advantage program. The administration has repeatedly threatened the popular Medicare Advantage program, leading to higher costs and fewer choices for seniors. The president’s health care law raids more than $700 billion from Medicare, including more than $300 billion from Medicare Advantage with more of these cuts to be phased in this year. Additionally, recently proposed regulations would further strain the program.
The leaders write, “We are troubled by the policies in this regulation, which we believe will lead to millions of seniors facing fewer choices, higher costs, and plan cancellations. …We are concerned that the policies in PPACA and this most recent rule will further reduce seniors’ choices while increasing their costs. This concern is well-founded, as your actuaries at CMS have warned that cuts could cause up to 7 million of the nearly 16 million seniors in MA to lose their plans by 2017.”
“We remain ready to work with you to stop the harmful effects caused by another round of cuts to seniors’ health care benefits. We urge you not to finalize the policies in the proposed rule but rather work with Congress to strengthen and stabilize the Medicare Advantage program.”
The letter was signed by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
Read the complete letter online HERE.
Feb 24 2015
Washington D.C.— Senator Orrin G. Hatch, President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate, issued the following statement following the President’s veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
“The President’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline obstructs a commonsense, bipartisan approach to creating jobs and securing America’s energy future. Again and again, the President has demonstrated he is accountable to no one, not even the American people. Unlike the President, who refuses to work with Congress for the good of the country, I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate on solutions that help the American people.”