SCOTUS decision strikes at Vermont’s health care disclosure law

This month the US Supreme Court struck down portions of Vermont’s health care disclosure law requiring large employers to report what they are paying for health care procedures.

The case arose from Liberty Mutual Insurance’s assertion that they shouldn’t be required to report information to the Vermont Health Care Uniform Reporting and Evaluation System (VHCURES) because their insurance plans fall under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). VHCURES collects an array of information including how much different insurers pay for health care services across the state. ERISA is a federal law that regulates health insurance plans that employers set up with company funds for their employees. The question before the court was whether ERISA preempts Vermont’s disclosure requirement.

The Court in a 6 -2 decision proclaimed that Vermont’s law is preempted because it could create a burden on companies that offer ERISA health benefit plans. The Court clarified that any state regulations that could be non-uniform are preempted by ERISA, which means companies with plans covered by ERISA are not subject to disclosure requirements.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Breyer pointed out that the US Department of Labor can easily create a rule that requires companies to report on their ERISA health plans, but has failed to do so. In Justice Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion, she highlighted the importance of collecting healthcare data and how it is vital to driving costs down under the Affordable Care Act. She also pointed out that many states, including Vermont, have health care database laws and stopping disclosure of “self-insured employer health care plans” undermines the ability keep cost downs and improve the quality of care of health care services throughout the country. [1]

The majority’s opinion is detrimental to Vermont’s efforts to better understand the health care landscape and effectively regulate the health care system.  Health care databases like VHCURES can provide consumers with valuable information to make informed decision about the services that are provided to them and ultimately helps drive down the cost of healthcare services. The Court’s decision will eliminate approximately 20% of the data the state aimed to collect through VHCURES.[2]

 

[1] Id.

[2] Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company- Ginsberg dissent