Employee Benefits Law Report

Tag Archives: Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court invalidates Vermont health care reporting law Under ERISA preemption doctrine

The United States Supreme Court ruled on March 1, 2016 in Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company that a Vermont state statute that requires health care plans to file informational report with the state is preempted by ERISA to the extent it is intended to apply to self-funded plans. Writing on behalf of the Court in a 6-2 ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that reporting, disclosure and record-keeping are central to and an essential part of ERISA’s regulatory scheme and thus concluded that ERISA preempted state efforts to impose other reporting obligations.

ERISA expressly preempts any state laws insofar as …

Supreme Court unanimously holds that severance payments generally are subject to FICA taxes

Clients frequently ask us if severance payments are subject to tax withholding. The answer is that they clearly are subject to income tax withholding, but there has always been some ambiguity about the circumstances in which they are subject to FICA tax withholding. The IRS has always taken the position that severance payments are not subject to FICA tax withholding only when the severance payments are tied to the receipt of unemployment benefits. When the issue arose in litigation, however, the Circuits were split as to whether to side with the IRS, or whether a somewhat broader FICA exception should …

The Supreme Court Rejects Same-Sex Prohibitions in DOMA

In a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Kennedy, the United States Supreme today held in United States v. Windsor that the provisions contained in the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) that exclude same-sex relationships from the definition of marriage and spouse for federal law purposes is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. In doing so, Justice Kennedy has highlighted once again his role as a critical swing vote on the Court. He also has rendered a decision that seems likely to have far …

Health Care Reform Survives Supreme Court Scrutiny – But Not Entirely Intact

Health care reform just got a clean bill of health from the United States Supreme Court. The Court today ruled on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”), and generally upheld the legislation in a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts. Roberts was joined in his opinion by the four justices who had been appointed to the Court by Democratic presidents. In an expected development, certain individual justices wrote and/or joined concurring and dissenting opinions as well. The Court upheld the individual mandate to purchase health coverage, concluding that the mandate is permissible …

Supreme Court Wraps Up Oral Arguments On Health Care Reform – Day Three

On Wednesday, March 28, the Supreme Court wrapped up three days of oral arguments related to the constitutionality of certain portions of the health care reform legislation. As noted in my immediately previous blog related to the arguments, the Court focused on two issues in this last day of argument including: (a) whether the entire health care reform legislation must be invalidated in the event that the individual mandate is struck down, and (b) whether the provision of the legislation that expands the Medicaid program, and thus increases the financial burdens imposed on the states under that program, is constitutional. …

Health Care Reform Reaches The Supreme Court – Two Days Down, One to Go

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, March 27 heard oral arguments on the most pivotal issue concerning the implementation of the health care reform legislation. The issue before the Court on Tuesday concerned the constitutionality of the individual mandate that is at the heart of the recent legislation (i.e., the obligation imposed on all covered individuals, effective in 2014, to either purchase health care coverage or pay a penalty for refusing to do so). This was the sole issue before the Court during two hours of oral arguments. Although other issues are being reviewed during three days of oral arguments, this …

Health Care Reform Finally Reaches The Supreme Court – Day One!

The health care reform legislation finally is having its day (well, actually several days) in court — in the United States Supreme Court no less. Other than for those fixated on the upcoming Final Four (unfortunately, the author’s team already has been eliminated and thus I am free to write this) or on the triumphant return of Tiger Wood to the pinnacle of golf, it has been quite difficult to miss all the media attention aimed at this week’s arguments before the Supreme Court concerning the health care reform legislation passed by Congress in 2009. The Court has scheduled six …

Supreme Court Gets Into The Act On Health Care Reform

The table now is set for the last chapter in our long (and, to many, excruciating) debate over the constitutionality of the health care reform legislation enacted in 2010. At a conference last Thursday, November 10, the members of the United States Supreme Court voted to consider an appeal of one of the lower court decisions dealing with the constitutionality of the landmark legislation. Oral arguments likely will be scheduled for March, 2012 (ironically around the two year anniversary of the passage of the legislation). In turn, a decision is expected around the end of the Court’s session in June, …

Is The Judicial Ping Pong Game Over Health Care Reform Coming To A Merciful Close?

The Obama administration was faced with a deadline to ask for an en banc review by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals of a decision that declared the health care reform legislation’s individual mandate unconstitutional. Under applicable court rules, such a request had to be filed by Monday, September 26. A decision to seek such a review would have caused further delay, and very likely would have delayed the timing of a decision on the legislation by the Supreme Court until after the 2012 national elections.

Perhaps eager to get the constitutional questions over the health care reform legislation resolved …

ERISA Time Travel Continues

On our sister blog – Employer Law Report – we recently blogged about an infrequent ERISA surprise from the US Supreme Court, in CIGNA v. Amara, and now we have a second ruling from the Supreme Court in that case, granting Amara certioria and remanding.  This is a procedural twist that is more interesting to lawyers than employers, but it underscores the point we made about uncertainty in this area:  we don’t really know what remedies are other “appropriate equitable relief” under ERISA, or know how much exposure employers face regarding their ERISA plans.  Establishing procedures for compliance with …

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