The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company to uphold an act of Congress designed to protect private health insurers from cumbersome interference by state governments. The decision states Vermont cannot force private health insurance companies to hand over data on health care services and payments of medical claims.
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“By affirming the Second Circuit Court’s ruling, the Supreme Court ensured the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) prevents Vermont from imposing what Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the Court, called ‘novel, inconsistent, and burdensome reporting requirements.’
“Vermont’s requirements are also redundant, as the U.S. Department of Labor imposes significant reporting requirements on private insurers, many of which are struggling under the Affordable Care Act.
“In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas balanced the Court by doubting whether Congress’s power to pre-empt state laws extends as far under the Commerce Clause as the Court would allow.
“In the absence of the ‘originalist’ perspective of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Thomas reminds us that despite ERISA’s legitimacy in Gobeille, the U.S. Constitution must and does limit the powers of the federal government.”
“This case is a natural consequence of Obamacare. Thanks to the demands of the ACA, ERISA, and the incompetence of the Department of Labor (DOL), Vermont was faced with inconsistent obligations. State officials needed certain data to comply with Obamacare, while ERISA seemed to preempt them from requiring the data. The DOL could have fixed this problem administratively.
“Meanwhile, the DOL refused to argue that the state statute was preempted because it would make Obamacare more difficult to implement. Frankly, I think a good lobbyist with a history of working with DOL could have fixed this problem without all the litigation. The Obamacare regulatory nightmare continues.”
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