The American Benefits Council has introduced its strategic plans for health and retirement policy, providing 46 specific regulatory recommendations for Congress to consider in easing the burdens on employees, employers and government agencies.

The advocacy group’s “2020 vision” focuses on a four-pillar plan including global competitiveness and an emphasis on personal health and financial wellbeing.

Jim Klein, president of ABC, says these plans were created to not only be visionary today, but also realistically applicable in the future.

“We intended to be opportunistic to the approval of these recommendations in the years ahead,” he says. And going forward, “this strategic plan will be used as a benchmark for us to compare to other ideas from congress and industry leaders.”

Janet Boyd, Char of the ABC’s board of directors and director of government relations, tax and benefits for The Dow Chemical Company, says of the plan centers around five goals –  sustainability, empowerment, value, innovation and technology – which will allow employer sponsored plans to thrive.

“The era of one-size-fits-all approaches to health and retirement benefits policy is over,” Boyd adds. “American businesses must be flexible to navigate intense global competition and manage diverse workforces.

One recommendation the council proposes, that Klein calls a win-win-win, is to “permit employers to establish stand-alone health reimbursement arrangements, or similar accounts, which can be used to purchase individual coverage.”

It’s a positive first and foremost for employees because they will have the financial means by which to go in the exchange and choose the plan they want, Klein says. “It’s a win for the employer, because if the employer does this they avoid the employer mandate/share responsibility mandate,” he adds. “And we think it’s a win for the government, because of employers step away from the health care system, some of those employees will go into the exchanges and be eligible for the subsidies which now the federal government will not have to pay.”

Also, with increasing longevity, it’s more important than ever to provide every chance possible for employees to save for retirement, Klein says.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the number of years in retirement have grown 83% in men since 1970 and by 47% in women.

To help improve retirement readiness, the council called for higher contribution limits and lowering the eligibility age to 45 for “catch-up” contributions to defined contribution plans. They also recommend higher default contribution and escalation rates, as well as a good-faith presumption that would allow employers to use new technology to communicate benefit information without having to wait for regulators to approve the changes.

“Ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the prospect of comprehensive tax reform will have profound implications for benefits policy,” Klein adds. “This is our opportunity to not only inform policymakers, but to lead the way toward a more prosperous future.”

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