WASHINGTON (October 31, 2019) – National Association of REALTORS® CEO Bob Goldberg was among a handful of trade association representatives invited to meet with U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia on Wednesday. Goldberg was selected to speak on behalf of America’s REALTORS® working as independent contractors during a conversation focused on association health plans and the department’s new association retirement plan rule.
The meeting came just two months after real estate industry executives—including Goldberg—met with acting Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella to discuss the direction of the department under new leadership. The department continues to rely on input from the real estate industry in the fight to protect its AHP rule, particularly as it looks to continue defending a legal challenge brought by a dozen state attorneys general.
“NAR has spent the past decade advocating for reform of health insurance markets that provide coverage to the self-employed and to small employers. These efforts have only intensified as nearly a quarter-million REALTORS® remain unable to secure affordable coverage in expensive individual ACA markets,” Goldberg said following Wednesday’s meeting.
NAR filed an amicus brief,a legal document filed by nonlitigants who have a strong interest in the subject matter, in defense of the department’s lower court appeal in early June. More than 200 state and local REALTOR® associations supported NAR’s opinion.
“A reversal of the lawsuit challenging AHPs will ensure REALTORS® and their families can begin accessing these critical and potentially life-saving health insurance options,” Goldberg continued.
Goldberg stressed NAR’s desire to see the administration take action to ensure that states allowing AHPs to cover self-employed individuals will not be preempted by federal law. There is an ongoing question as to whether a Department of Health and Human Services rule indeed preempts these state laws. More states are considering their own AHP law but are concerned with potential preemption, especially as the litigation continues to cause uncertainty. Oral arguments in the case will be held on November 14, with a decision expected by early 2020.
While NAR has been a vocal supporter of AHPs for decades, it is also playing a leading role to guide industry partners in the fight to secure retirement benefits for independent contractors.
Namely, in late July, the Department of Labor issued a final rule clarifying the ability of employer groups and associations to sponsor multiple-employer workplace retirement plans. The rule was issued in accordance with a 2018 executive order designed to expand access to workplace retirement plans for, among others, sole proprietors and independent contractors.
The topic was addressed Wednesday as approximately 38 million private-sector employees in the United States lack access to a retirement savings plan through their employer.
The departments rule broadens the definition of “employer” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to include employer groups, associations, professional employer organizations, and sole proprietors. The result of this increased access will allow small and mid-size businesses to pool resources, thereby lowering costs and easing the regulatory burdens associated with offering retirement plans. The issue is of particular importance to Goldberg as he noted that just 52% of NAR’s members are actively saving for retirement.
In any case, the department’s final rule will help expand retirement benefit opportunities for Americans who lack access to traditional employer-based retirement plans, a positive development for those attending the Wednesday meeting and the millions of workers they represent.