August 30, 2012
--- Workers value their employer-provided health and
retirement benefits, but the tax incentives that support these benefits are
being scrutinized. ---
To examine the implications for
private-sector health and retirement benefits, as well as the costs and
consequences, and what the numbers are, the Employee Benefit Research Institute
(EBRI) recently held a day-long policy forum in Washington, D.C. Approximately
100 experts, benefits professionals and policymakers attended to provide their
perspectives and predictions.
An EBRI report about the forum notes
that the reach and impact of these benefits is immense. Employment-based health
benefits are the most common form of health insurance in the U.S., covering
nearly 59% of all nonelderly Americans in 2010 and 69% of working adults.
Assets in employment-based defined benefit (pension) and defined contribution
(401(k)-type) plans account for more than one-third of all retirement assets
held in the U.S., and a significant percentage of assets held today in
individual retirement accounts (IRAs) originated as a rollover account from an
Workers routinely rank their
employment-based health coverage as the most important benefit they receive,
followed by a retirement plan.
Since private-sector health benefits
alone rank as the largest single “tax expenditure” in the federal budget,
various proposals have been made either to reduce or even to phase out the cost
of that program to the government. For employers that sponsor these benefits –
and the workers who receive them – the implications are enormous, the EBRI
report points out.
look at some of the recent proposals for reform, benefit plan tax incentives
are an area of total and complete volatility, and neither employers nor workers
can have any certainty of what lies ahead,” said Dallas Salisbury, president
and chief executive of EBRI.