The question of whether state reporting mandates for benefit plans are pre-empted by ERISA was argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
The case, Alfred Gobeille vs. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., involved a Vermont requirement that public and private entities, including third-party administrators, provide data on health-care payments to a state database.
Liberty Mutual sued to block the requirement, arguing that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act supersedes state authority over benefit plans. In court documents, the insurer cautioned that a final decision has national significance, with 17 states and the District of Columbia already issuing similar mandates.
Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr law firm partner Seth Waxman, representing Liberty Mutual, warned during arguments that if Vermont’s authority is upheld, similar reporting mandates “are going to apply to pension plans,” particularly as the state considers a retirement program for private-sector residents.
“This issue does not end at Vermont,” Mr. Waxman said. Multiple reporting mandates would be particularly hard on multiemployer plans “because every dollar that they have to spend … comes directly out of the benefits that they can pay,” he said. Several employee benefit groups, including the American Benefits Council, ERISA Industry Committee and National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, filed amicus briefs supporting Liberty Mutual.
“This type of multistate regulation, recognized by Congress as an inherent burden, was the genesis for ERISA's pre-emption provision,” said Nancy Ross, a Mayer Brown partner who filed the appeal on behalf of Liberty Mutual and the amicus brief for the employer groups.
Vermont Solicitor General Bridget Asay argued the reporting mandate “does not affect ERISA in any way,” but several Supreme Court justices questioned the feasibility of as many as 50 different state mandates, and whether the Department of Labor should step in.