President Trump signed two government funding measures into law last week that included two provisions of interest to the property/casualty insurers: a reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) until Sept. 30, 2020, and a renewal of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program (TRIA) for seven years.
On Thursday, the Senate went along with House measures that fund the military and rest of the federal government through next September, and the president signed the bills on Friday, Dec. 20.
The flood program, along with all government spending, was scheduled to expire last week. The current TRIA authorization had been set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020.
The defense funding bill (H.R. 1158) passed in the Senate by an 81-11 vote; the non-defense measure (H.R. 1865) was agreed to on a vote of 71-23. Opponents cited concerns about how the additional spending without corresponding cuts would add to the federal deficit.
Insurers welcomed the seven-year TRIA extension.
“This is a great example of how Congress got their job done, on time, with the interest of the American people at the forefront. Because TRIA is critical to the stability of the nation’s economy, businesses of all sizes, and the insurance markets, Congress enacted the Program well before it was set to expire. This is a job well done,” said Nat Wienecke, senior vice president of federal government relations for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA).
“By voting…to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program, the Senate has helped protect our economy from the threat of terrorism and to keep our communities growing. The program helped revive our economy in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, bringing back thousands of jobs lost as development halted due to a lack of affordable terrorism coverage. Since then it has provided the financial security for development in cities and towns from coast to coast, and thanks to overwhelming support from congressional leadership and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, it will continue to do so,” said Jimi Grande, senior Vice President of Government Affairs, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC).
The funding package also repeals several Obamacare taxes including an excise tax on medical devices, a health insurer fee and the so-called “Cadillac tax,” a 40% excise tax on high-end health insurance plans scheduled to go into effect in 2022.
Insurance agents applauded repeal of the Cadillac tax. “Without repeal, this harmful tax would have been crippling to many of our small business members and their clients and would have only worsened over time. The damage to the employee benefits marketplace could have been devastating,” said Bob Rusbuldt, president and CEO, Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”).
In addition, the new law raises the age to purchase tobacco and nicotine vaping products nationally to 21.
Also included in the package signed by the president is the SECURE Act (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act), a bipartisan measure designed to make it easier for small business employees, home care workers, and part-time workers to save for retirement. It removes the maximum age limits on retirement contributions and raises to 72 the age deadline for drawing on accounts.
The final package did not include a bipartisan proposal to bring an end to surprise medical bills.
The agreements took weeks of bipartisan negotiations by Democratic and Republican lawmakers and the White House.