August 12, 2011
For additional information:
Jason Hammersla

Council commends departments on efforts to streamline regulatory review as overall regulatory burden on employers has grown

New rules emphasize improved communication

WASHINGTON, DC — "The steps outlined in the Obama Administration's regulatory action plans should help ease some administrative burdens and improve communications between the executive branch and employers, who sponsor plans that provide vital retirement and health benefits to millions of workers and their families," said American Benefits Council president James A. Klein.

"We appreciate and commend the long-standing willingness of both the political leadership and permanent staff of the Executive branch agencies to seek the expertise of employer sponsors of benefit plans and to receive the Council's input. But the reality, of course, is that overall the regulatory burden associated with operating employer-sponsored benefit plans has gotten more onerous under both Republican and Democratic administrations. And both Democratic and Republican Congresses have passed laws adding to these burdens. Agencies have a duty to make the rules governing health and retirement plans as administrable as possible, and Congress must exercise close oversight of the agencies to make sure they are not needlessly imposing unwarranted costs and burdens," Klein added.

Executive Order 13563, issued by President Obama earlier this year, directed federal agencies to identify ways to ease unnecessary regulatory burdens. Some of the proposals from key agencies involve the procedures for developing rules affecting employer-sponsored benefits:

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC): "The Council commends PBGC for its stated goal of expanding public participation in the rulemaking process, particularly the decision to hold public hearings on major regulatory projects," Klein said. "Council members also appreciate forthcoming efforts to streamline filing processes, especially in light of the stiff penalties PBGC has sometimes imposed for innocent administrative and clerical errors."

Department of Treasury: "The Council commends the Treasury Department for its examination of the regulatory burdens associated with expanded distribution options and its interest in facilitating the delivery of lifetime income solutions," Klein said. "We believe it is critical for regulators to address the potential for liability associated with providing lifetime income through employer sponsored plans and to pursue balanced approaches to retirement income needs for participants."

Department of Labor (DOL) and Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA): "EBSA's planned modifications to its abandoned plan program, addressing the disposition of 401(k) plans abandoned by plan sponsors, is a sensible use of regulatory authority to reduce administrative burdens," Klein said.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS): "While HHS and CMS provided less detail in their list of anticipated regulatory review items, we look forward to working with these and other agencies to ensure orderly, workable implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

"As President Obama said in his Executive Order, 'Our regulatory system must protect public health, welfare, safety, and our environment while promoting economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation.' American employers, as agents of economic growth, are essential partners in that effort. Benefit plan sponsors need predictable and administrable rules to operate. A balanced and fair regulatory regime can contribute to economic stability and growth," Klein concluded.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with Council staff on regulatory issues, please contact Jason Hammersla, Council director, communications, at 202-289-6700.

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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.