President Trump Outlines Policy Goals Affecting HR in First Address to Congress

Nancy Hammer By Nancy Hammer March 3, 2017
President Trump Outlines Policy Goals Affecting HR in First Address to Congress

In his first address to Congress, President Donald J. Trump touched on a wide range of issues, from foreign policy to crime to improving education and infrastructure. Much of the speech, however, focused on providing relief to U.S. businesses and the middle class by laying out broad principles for improving the economy, slashing regulations, reforming taxes, and by providing more detail on his plans for health care and immigration reform.

The president first took time to note his early effort to reduce what he called "job‑crushing regulations" by issuing an executive order requiring that for every new regulation, two must be eliminated and by creating regulatory task forces within every federal agency. Initial reports from the task forces are due to the heads of agencies in 90 days and should provide greater clarity on how the administration plans to reduce overall government regulations.

With regard to health care, the president offered five principles for reform, keeping close to congressional Republicans' plans. Specific ideas mentioned include new tax credits to help individuals purchase their own health coverage; expanded use of health savings accounts; reducing prescription drug costs; medical liability reform to protect patients and doctors from costs that drive up the price of insurance; and greater state flexibility for Medicaid implementation and allowing insurers to sell health plans across state lines. In addition, the president encouraged flexibility in benefits, a principle that SHRM supports as it relates to employer-sponsored benefits. As the source of health care coverage to more than 177 million working Americans and their families, employer-sponsored plans are the bedrock of the U.S. health care system, which should maintain flexibility in benefit design offerings as they are a critical component of employers' overall benefit offerings and health care strategy to promote healthy lifestyles for employees and reduce health care costs.

The president also expressed support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision that allows all current ACA exchange customers with pre-existing conditions "access to coverage" and a "stable transition" as Congress considers replace and repeal efforts.

As the Trump administration and lawmakers consider health care reform efforts, SHRM will continue to advocate for reforms that lower health care costs and improve access to high-quality and affordable coverage. The Society believes that congressional reforms should strengthen and improve the employer-based health care system. Health care reform proposals should ensure that tax policy contributes to lower costs and greater access, preserve the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act law that allows for common benefit plans across state lines, encourage increased use of prevention and wellness programs, improve quality and transparency of health care and streamline medical liability laws to reduce health care costs.

Turning to immigration, the president reiterated his desire to pursue reform with goals like improving jobs and wages for U.S. workers, embracing a merit-based immigration system, and strengthening national security. In an increasingly global and interconnected world, SHRM and our strategic affiliate the Council for Global Immigration (CFGI) believe that access to the best and brightest talent is vital for employers to address the skills gap and for the United States to compete globally. As the Trump administration and Congress consider employment-based immigration reform proposals, SHRM and CFGI will continue to advocate for policies that support U.S. employers in their efforts to recruit, hire, transfer and retain the employees they need from around the world to innovate and grow America's economy. In addition, we continue to support policies that encourage prioritizing visas for employers that are growing the U.S. workforce and investing in the education and training of U.S. employees. 

Although specifics are limited of another proposal raised during the speech of interest to HR professionals, President Trump again reiterated his support for a campaign pledge dealing with paid leave. During the campaign, he called for 6 weeks of paid leave to new mothers using the existing unemployment insurance (UI) system. This approach appears to be similar to a proposal under the Clinton Administration, known as "Baby UI," that would have permitted states to use the unemployment compensation system to pay for family leave. SHRM has concerns with using the UI system to provide paid leave given the tax, benefit and program implications it raises for employers. Instead, SHRM continues to advocate for a 21st century workplace flexibility public policy that encourages employers to expand paid leave and flexible work options, rather than a one-size-fits-all government mandate.



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