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ERISA Prevents Vermont from Requiring Self-Insured Health Plans to Provide Data Relating to Healthcare

    Client Alerts
  • March 15, 2016

Vermont and a few other states have adopted so-called “All-Payer Claims Databases” (“APCD”) in an effort to collect financial and other information relating to healthcare for purposes of controlling costs and generally improving healthcare systems. On March 1, in Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (“ERISA”) preempts a Vermont statute imposing new reporting obligations on self-insured medical plans.

The Court found that Vermont’s mandatory APCD created additional reporting and recordkeeping obligations on health plans that are subject to ERISA, and decided that preemption was justified to prevent individual states from creating inconsistent requirements relating to plan administration. Two Justices, Ginsburg and Sotomayor, dissented from the majority opinion and noted that the purpose of such state statutes was different from those that led to the adoption of ERISA. Justice Breyer, in a concurring opinion, mentioned that the Department of Labor is the proper agency to implement an APCD, and that it could delegate implementing powers to the states.

While this is a victory for ERISA plan administrators and other providers, it may not be a significant one. The ERISA preemption described above does not apply to state laws that regulate the insurance business. As a result, the holding in Gobeille does not apply to ERISA plans that are fully insured, but is limited to self-insured plans. Also, as Justice Breyer’s concurring opinion indicates, APCDs could be imposed on all health plans, but by a different regulator. Finally, states are not prohibited from adopting APCDs that are not mandatory.