Congress Must Clarify Law on Employee Health Benefits
One of the most "vexing" questions that remains unanswered about a health care reform bill (ABX1 1) in California "is whether its requirement that businesses chip in to help cover the uninsured violates" a 1974 federal law that governs employee health benefits, a Los Angeles Times editorial states.
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a San Francisco health care program involving mandatory employer spending on health care does not violate the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
However, the editorial notes that if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) -- who negotiated ABX1 1 -- "are really serious about championing health care reform in California ... they must pressure Congress to amend" ERISA.
Regardless of the court's final ruling in San Francisco, the editorial contends that "California's health care plan is likely to face legal challenges from business if it moves forward -- unless Congress clarifies" a pre-emption clause in ERISA that states the law should "'supersede any and all state laws'."
The editorial argues that if states want to experiment with regulating employer contributions to health coverage, "Congress should make it possible for them to do so," adding that Congress "must get serious about drafting its own solutions" if it opts not to let states act (Los Angeles Times, 1/11).