Aric Newhouse is the senior vice president of policy and government relations at the National Association of Manufacturers. Here he breaks down manufacturers’ biggest policy victories in 2019 and what is ahead for 2020.
Manufacturers saw many big achievements in the final weeks of 2019. What is the impact of these and was it a surprise?
The Democratic-led House of Representatives approved the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement with a strong bipartisan vote of 385-41. The trade agreement still needs to be approved by the Republican-led Senate. This was a major accomplishment, especially considering that about two years ago many thought that the U.S. was on the verge of withdrawing from NAFTA and the entire North American trading relationship, which support 2 million manufacturing jobs, was at risk of crumbling.
On top of the USMCA, the Trump administration reached a “phase one” trade deal with China. This is another achievement many thought would be impossible. But now we have real, enforceable intellectual property protections in place in China and a foundation for a “phase two” deal.
Right before Congress left for the holidays, they passed a year-end government funding bill, which included a seven-year reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank and the repeal of the medical device tax, “Cadillac” tax and health insurance tax. Some of those taxes were poised to hit hard in 2020, so this comes as a big relief for manufacturers.
And was all this a surprise? I am sure it surprised many people that all of this got done in the middle of a contentious political moment. However, the NAM has spent a long time, in some cases years, laying the groundwork to make these wins possible, so we had some confidence that the agenda of manufacturers and their workers would win the day.
There was a time when USMCA passage was in doubt. How did you win over lawmakers?
The NAM, in close coordination with our members and with their incredible support and work, made clear to policymakers that the USMCA was not about politics but was about our growth, our exports and our people. Successfully doing so turned the discussion around the deal from skepticism to support and was critical to its passage. Granted, we did not get everything we wanted, but we achieved our number one goal: protecting our biggest trading relationship with a modernized trade agreement.
What is ahead for 2020?
Number one, we will get the USMCA passed in the Senate. We will provide support for a “phase two” trade deal with China that further levels the playing field, provides enforceable rules and secures relief from costly tariffs. And we will continue our advocacy on manufacturers’ other top priorities, including infrastructure investment, immigration and health care reform. We want to see more regulatory certainty from the federal agencies so that manufacturers can continue investing confidently in the future.
ANN ARBOR, MICH. – The National Association of Manufacturers announced today that it will offer an association health plan to its members, extending affordable health care to small and medium-sized manufacturing companies and member associations in approved states. In states where the association health plan is not available, the NAM will connect manufacturers with available small-group options in their state.
“This association health plan is another step in our work to make the NAM a one-stop shop for manufacturing across the United States,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “With small and medium-sized businesses making up more than 90 percent of our membership, this plan will help provide health care and reduce uncertainty for workers and their employers across the country.”
The plan, called NAM Health Care (www.namhealthcare.com), was developed to meet manufacturers’ unique health care needs. It will offer a portfolio of health benefits options insured by UnitedHealthcare. In states where these plans are available, businesses with 2 to 99 employees will be able to choose from a variety of PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) and HSA (Health Savings Account) health plans. Members will also have access to UnitedHealthcare’s Choice Plus care provider network of more than 1.2 million physicians and care professionals and 6,500 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare will work with any licensed or appointed agents who want to sell NAM Health Care.
In addition, Mercer will provide the NAM’s small business members with consulting services regarding health benefits offerings and contribution strategies, marketing support to educate and enroll their employees, plan administration and compliance services. The Mercer Affinity 365+sm platform will provide members technology for quoting, enrollment and ongoing benefits administration to drive cost efficiencies and facilitate employee engagement.
Association health plans allow companies to band together to manage and purchase health care coverage that may save on annual health insurance costs by providing plans that are typically enjoyed by larger companies at a competitive price. Under NAM Health Care, eligible member companies also will have access to supplemental benefits, including dental, vision and life.
“The work that manufacturers are doing every day grows the economy and strengthens our country, and they deserve the health care they need to do that job with certainty and support,” said Timmons. “At the NAM, we are proud to help lower costs and increase competitive health coverage for the men and women who make things in America.”
NAM Health Care is quoting these plans for eligible member groups for a Sept. 1, 2019, enrollment date. To enroll in these plans, where available, interested businesses may visit www.namhealthcare.com.