The Trump administration is preparing to release a major tax reform proposal this week. That proposal could contain provisions with all manner of good, bad and indifferent effects on annuity issuers, annuity users and annuity buyers, whether or not the provisions contain a single direct reference to the word “annuity.”

Congress, meanwhile, already has 45 bills that do refer directly to annuities under consideration. Some of those bills deal with post-retirement benefits for military veterans, U.S. Postal Service workers or other government workers, not the kinds of commercial annuities that would interest an insurance agent or advisor. Many of the remaining bills are twins of other bills: the House companion of a Senate bill, or the Senate companion of a House bill. 

(Related: Bill to Replace Dodd-Frank Passes House Panel)

We came up with a quick-and-dirty six interesting annuity bills to watch by searching the Congress.gov legislation database for current House bills that refer to “annuity” or “annuities.” We filtered out the military benefits and Postal Service benefits bills, then ranked the results in terms of legislative action intensity.

For the four bills that have not yet had hearings, we used the number of co-sponsors as a rough measure of legislative action intensity, whether the co-sponsors were Republicans or Democrats.

Most of these bills, especially the ones sponsored by Democrats, will probably die in committee. The editors of GovTrack.us, a congressional legislation tracking site, have estimated that only about 3% of the bills introduced are enacted.

In some cases, citizen lobbyists might be able to give a bill meaningful support. In 2010, for example, an agent “fly-in” organized by the National Association for Fixed Annuities helped the indexed annuity community get indexed annuities classified as state-regulated insurance products, rather than as securities. 

An agent or advisor could also use a list of annuity bills to come up with ideas for legislative updates for clients, or to come up with a list of people in the U.S. Capitol to try to get to know. Even if some of these bills go nowhere, chances are that someone on the lead sponsor’s staff knows what an annuity is. Those aides might be good people for would-be citizen lobbyists to get to know.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

6. ABLE to Work Act of 2017 (H.R. 1896)

Sponsor: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.

Cosponsors: 10 (5 Republicans, 5 Democrats)

Committee: Ways and Means

Major actions: None.

This bill could affect disabled workers at public schools and other nonprofit employers that use tax-sheltered annuities, or 403(b) plans, to provide retirement benefits. The families of people with disabilities already contribute to accounts established under the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014. The accounts are supposed to be the equivalent of 529 college savings accounts for people with disabilities who will not be able to go to college.

(Related: ABLE Alliance Launches Investment Accounts for Disabled, Blind)

H.R. 1896 would raise the usual contribution limit for workers with disabilities who wanted to put their earnings into their own ABLE accounts. Otherwise eligible workers could not use the special contribution if employers contributed to 403(b) plan annuity contracts, or other types of defined contribution retirement plans, on their behalf.

Rep. Jared Huffman (Photo: AP)


5. American Savings Account Act of 2017 (H.R. 1083)

Sponsor: Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif.

Co-sponsors: 13 (13 Democrats)

Committee: Ways and Means

Major actions: None.

This bill would create what amounts to a voluntary defined contribution retirement plan program managed by the U.S. Treasury Department. Consumers could invest in the privately managed investment options offered by the program. The board in charge of the program would use annuity contracts from private annuity issuers to make payments when savers retire.

Rep. John Delaney (Photo: AP)

4. Infrastructure 2.0 Act (H.R. 1670)

Sponsor: Rep. John Delaney, D-Md.

Co-sponsors: 20 (18 Democrats, 2 Republicans)

Committees: Ways and Means; Transportation and Infrastructure; Rules

Major actions: None.

This bill would give U.S. companies with offshore operations, including issuers of life insurance and annuities, a tax incentive to repatriate offshore profits by investing the offshore profits in 50-year infrastructure bonds.

Rep. David Roe

 

3. American Health Care Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 277)

Sponsor: Rep. David Roe, R-Tenn.

Co-sponsors: 29 (29 Republicans)

Committees: Energy and Commerce; Budget; Ways and Means; Education and the Workforce; Judiciary; Natural Resources; Administration; Rules; Appropriations; Veterans’ Affairs

Major actions: None.

This bill would repeal the Affordable Care Act and enact a number of rule changes long sought by Republicans. One provision, for example, would let a health insurer choose its official state of domicile, come under the oversight of the insurance regulator in that state, and then sell health insurance products in other states, based on its home-state rules.

(Related: 5 California Annuity Bills to Watch)

One provision in the bill would eliminate the limited exemption from federal antitrust laws that health insurers now enjoy under the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945.

That section states that the “business of health insurance (including the business of dental insurance)” does not include “the business of life insurance (including annuities).”

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (Photo: AP)

2. To amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to count portions of income from annuities of a community spouse as income available to institutionalized spouses for purposes of eligibility for medical assistance, and for other purposes (H.R. 181)

Sponsor: Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla.

Co-sponsors: 1 (1 Republican)

Committee: Energy and Commerce

Major actions: Forwarded by a subcommittee to the full Energy and Commerce Committee, by a vote of 19-13

This bill would limit couples’ ability to use annuities to reduce the amount of family income used in state Medicaid nursing home benefits eligibility calculations.

(Related: House Panel Marks Up Medicaid Planning Annuity Bill)

If one spouse still lived in the community, the family would have to assume that one-half of the income in a couple’s annuity was available to the spouse living in the nursing home. Annuities purchased at least 60 months before the eligibility determination date would be exempt from the provision.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. (Photo: Gosar)


1. Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 372)

Sponsor: Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.

Co-sponsors: 20 (20 Republicans)

Committee: Judiciary

Major actions: Passed in the House, by a vote of 416 to 7. Now in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

This bill would take away part of health insurers’ McCarran-Ferguson Act exemption from federal antitrust laws. Like H.R. 277, it includes language excluding “the business of life insurance (including annuities)” from the definition of the term “business of health insurance (including the business of dental insurance).

(Related: House Passes Antitrust and Association Plan Bills)

If the bill became law and caused significant problems for health insurers, it might increase of the popularity of annuity-based mechanisms for paying health care and dental care bills.

— Read Retirement-Plan Income Stream Reporting Bill Returns (Again) on ThinkAdvisor.