Editor's note: Now that the Republican and the Democratic national conventions have concluded, attention is focused on the candidates and their policies. The ERISA Industry Committee, Washington, reached out to seven business and retirement groups as well as its own members and Pensions & Investments editors to identify questions for both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Retirement income, expanding retirement coverage, taxes and health care are just some of the pressing issues identified. ERIC aims to send the questions to the candidates' campaigns in the coming days, said Aliya Robinson, senior vice president of retirement and compensation policy. Responses, if provided, will be published in an upcoming issue of P&I. Selected questions from the groups, below, have been edited for length and clarity.
Closing the coverage gap
- Although the employer-provided retirement system provides benefits to millions of workers, there are still many that are not covered by these plans — thus creating a retirement plan coverage gap. What will you do as president to strengthen and expand private, employer-sponsored retirement plan coverage and increase savings? How will you preserve and augment the current tax treatment of retirement savings to encourage Americans to start saving earlier and to save more?
- Workers today face many challenges and obstacles in saving for retirement, including an increased risk of outliving retirement assets. For a married couple at age 65, there is a 73% chance of at least one spouse living to age 90, and a 33% chance of at least one spouse living to 92. What will you do as president to facilitate and encourage greater access to and use of lifetime income products for both individuals and workplace retirement plans to insure against the risk of workers outliving their savings?
- The defined contribution system can do a very good job of providing retirement security. However, the current system is not fully inclusive. For those that do have access to DC plans, there are still concerning disparities in participation rates, savings levels and asset accumulation levels along racial, ethnic and other demographic lines. Please indicate your policies and proposals that would enhance the inclusivity of the retirement savings system. Specifically, how will your administration move us toward universal access to the retirement savings system in the U.S., and how will you facilitate greater participation and saving levels among the groups of Americans that are disproportionately being left behind today?
- ERISA is based on a voluntary system. However, mandates have been suggested to increase retirement plan coverage. Do you support a national mandate that all private employers offer a 401(k) plan to allow for employee-only contributions? If not, do you support it for a certain size employer? Would you support a mandate that also requires employers to offer specific plan designs?
Fixing the multiemployer mess
- What is your solution to the multiemployer pension funding crisis?
Back on track?
- A recent Bankrate survey shows 31 million people have needed or will need to access their retirement funds as a result of COVID-19 hardships. How will you help get these retirement savers back on track while also recognizing the need for funds during times of emergency? Do you support the creation of emergency saving funds in addition to long-term retirement savings?
Cutting red tape
- One reason that small businesses hesitate to offer retirement plans is the potentially complicated and costly testing requirements. In order to make 401(k) and profit-sharing plans easier for small businesses to sponsor and administer, do you support the simplification of the 401(k) tests and rules that no longer serve their original purpose, such as the top-heavy rules?
Taxes and carve-outs
- Do you support a tax on the sale of all stocks, bonds and derivatives? If so, would you support a carve-out of all retirement assets contained in tax-exempt trusts from the tax?
Employers role in health care
- More Americans are covered by employer-provided health care than any other source of health insurance. Employers can leverage purchasing power, market efficiencies and innovative plan design to provide high-quality, low-cost care. What role do you think employers should play in providing health coverage to Americans moving forward? How would you as president support and improve employer-sponsored health coverage?
Curbing surprises, drug costs
- Out-of-network health-care charges typically expose individuals to higher cost-sharing when they use health-care services and may lead to balance billing — in which providers bill patients directly, and often unexpectedly, at a higher rate. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, 1 in 5 insured adults had an unexpected surprise medical bill from an out-of-network provider in the past two years. How will you protect Americans from surprise medical billing?
- More than 460 prescription drug prices increased by an average of 5.2% this year, according to 3 Axis Advisors, a health-care research firm. Prescription drug costs will continue to rise. What is your plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs for those with employer-sponsored coverage?
A seat at the benefits table
- Employees of most organizations can enroll in a Section 125 cafeteria plan and select the benefits they need. However, IRS rules specify that owners of small businesses that are formed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC or Sub-S corporation cannot participate in a cafeteria plan sponsored by their business. This discourages owners of small businesses from offering these benefits through a cafeteria plan. Do you believe that all small business owners should be allowed to participate in all of their organization's benefit programs, including all health and welfare and cafeteria plan benefits, subject to all of the existing non-discrimination rules?
In addition to The ERISA Industry Committee, the following organizations contributed questions: American Benefits Council, American Retirement Association, Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association, Insured Retirement Institute, National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Small Business Council of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.