Tax cuts predicted; regulatory freeze issued, ACA action taken

President Trump, while maintaining a focus on tax reform, has signed one executive order and three presidential memorandums since being sworn into office on January 20. Trump’s executive order pertains to the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148), and one presidential memorandum implements a hiring freeze in the executive branch of the federal government. Additionally, the Trump administration has issued a regulatory freeze on certain new and pending regulations.

Tax reform

Trump predicted large tax cuts for businesses and individuals under his administration at a meeting with business leaders in Washington, D.C. on January 23. The president did not describe the extent of the tax rate cuts for individuals but said that the corporate tax rate would be between 15 and 20 percent.

ACA

On January 20, Trump, by executive order, directed all federal agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Affordable Care Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any state or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.” Federal agencies are directed to take this action within the “maximum extent permitted by law.”
The president’s executive order did not describe which actions federal agencies should take. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that the executive order appeared to address, among other things, the ACA’s individual shared responsibility requirement. The ACA generally requires individuals to carry minimum essential health coverage or make a shared responsibility payment, unless exempt. The ACA also requires applicable large employers to make a shared responsibility payment if not offering minimal essential coverage.

The executive order is intended to “minimize the economic burden” of the ACA, as stated in the order’s title. Congress has already taken a first step toward repealing the healthcare law. Several years ago, President Obama took executive action to delay the employer shared responsibility requirement under the ACA.

Regulatory freeze

The Trump administration on January 20 instructed federal agencies to stop all pending regulations until a legal and policy review can be conducted. “With respect to regulations that have been sent to the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) but not yet published in the Federal Register, immediately withdraw them from the OFR for review and approval…,” the memorandum says. The Obama administration, and the administration of President George W. Bush, issued similar directives.

The memorandum, issued by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus also addressed regulations that have already been published in the Federal Register but have not yet taken effect, calling for their effective date to be temporarily postponed for 60 days from January 20. The memorandum, as instructed to be published in the Federal Register, also specifies that the term “regulation” applies to any “regulatory action” including all “guidance documents.”

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