391 Mass. 730 (1984), Attorney General v. Travelers Ins. Co.

Citation:391 Mass. 730, 463 N.E.2d 548
Party Name:ATTORNEY GENERAL v. The TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY et al. [ 1]
Case Date:April 25, 1984
Court:Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
 
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391 Mass. 730 (1984)

463 N.E.2d 548

ATTORNEY GENERAL

v.

The TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY et al. 1

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.

April 25, 1984

Argued Nov. 7, 1983.

[463 N.E.2d 549] Jay Greenfield, New York City (Peter Buscemi, Washington, D.C., with him), for Metropolitan Life Ins. Co.

Lane McGovern, Boston (Martha Geer with him), for The Travelers Ins. Co.

Sally A. Kelly, Asst. Atty. Gen. (Francis X. Bellotti, Atty. Gen., with her), for the Attorney General.

Before HENNESSEY, C.J., and WILKINS, ABRAMS, NOLAN and O'CONNOR, JJ.

HENNESSEY, Chief Justice.

General Laws c. 175, § 47B, specifies mandatory minimum mental health care coverage under certain insurance policies. 2 The defendants declined to include such

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coverage in policies issued to welfare benefit plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. (1976 & Supp. V 1981). The Attorney General brought this action to compel the defendants to comply with § 47B. The defendants argued that § 47B is preempted by ERISA. A judge of the Superior Court ordered the defendants to comply with § 47B, and we affirmed. 385 Mass. 598, 433 N.E.2d 1223 (1982). The defendants appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. That Court vacated our judgment, 463 U.S. 1221, 103 S.Ct. 3563, 77 L.Ed.2d 1405, and remanded for further consideration in light of its intervening decision in Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 463 U.S. 85, 103 S.Ct. 2890, 77 L.Ed.2d 490 (1983).

ERISA applies to all employee benefit plans except those specifically exempt under ERISA § 4(b), 29 U.S.C. § 1003(b) (1976). ERISA explicitly preempts "any and all State laws insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan," ERISA § 514(a), 29 U.S.C. § 1144(a) (1976), except that it does not "exempt or relieve any person from any law of any State which regulates insurance, banking, or securities." ERISA § 514(b)(2)(A), 29 U.S.C. § 1144(b)(2)(A) (1976). 3 In addition, ERISA may not "be construed to alter, amend, modify, invalidate, impair, or supersede any law of the United States." ERISA § 514(d), 29 U.S.C. § 1144(d) (1976).

In Shaw, the plaintiffs sought declarations that two New York State laws are preempted by ERISA in so far as they apply to benefit plans subject to ERISA. One, the Human Rights Law, forbids discrimination in employment on the basis of sex and has been held to prohibit treating pregnancy differently from other nonoccupational disabilities. See Shaw, supra 103 S.Ct. at 2895. The other, the Disability Benefits Law, requires employers to provide the same benefits for pregnancy as for other nonoccupational disabilities. See id. at 2896.

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The Supreme Court had "no difficulty" concluding, on the basis of plain language and legislative history, that both laws "relate to" employee benefit plans within the meaning of ERISA § 514(a), the general preemption provision. Id. at 2899-2901. It rejected the suggestions that the preemption provision could be interpreted "to pre-empt only state laws dealing with the subject [463 N.E.2d 550] matters covered by ERISA--reporting, disclosure, fiduciary responsibility, and the like." Id. at 2900. In addition, the Court emphasized "Congress' goal of ensuring that employers would not face 'conflicting or inconsistent State and local regulation of employee benefit plans.' " Id. at 2904, quoting 120 Cong.Rec. 29,933 (1974) (remarks of Senator Williams). It noted the "inefficiency" that would result from requiring interstate employers to conform to differing State requirements. Shaw, supra at 2904 & n. 25.

With respect to the Human Rights Law, the Shaw defendants argued that, because State fair employment laws play an integral role in the enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, construing § 514(a) to preempt the Human Rights Law would impair...

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