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January 2009

New Resources on ERISA now Available

The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) and the State Coverage Initiatives (SCI) program have released a new issue brief, "Including Employer Financing in State Health Reform Initiatives: Implications of Recent Court Decisions." The brief, authored by ERISA expert, Pat Butler, discusses the Act’s preemption principles, describes state and local laws that have imposed employer fees, and notes the key findings and conclusions from the court of appeals opinions. The brief then offers suggestions for how states can include employer assessments in financing health care programs while minimizing grounds for ERISA challenges.

As a follow-up, NASHP and SCI, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, are sponsoring a free Web seminar:

ERISA: How Do You Solve a Problem Like ERISA?

Employer Financing in State and Local Health Reform Initiatives


Friday, February 6, 2009

2:30–4:00 p.m. Eastern

(1:30 p.m. Central; 12:30 p.m. Mountain; 11:30 a.m. Pacific)


Introduction and Brief Comments

- Alan Weil; executive director, National Academy for State Health Policy

- Enrique Martinez-Vidal; director, State Coverage Initiatives

Employer Assessments and Health Reform in San Francisco

- Mitchell Katz; director, San Francisco Department of Public Health

Employer Assessments and Health Reform in Massachusetts

- Stephen McCabe; assistant commissioner/director, Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy

Minimizing the Threat of ERISA Challenges

- Patricia A. Butler; consultant

Question and Answer Session

Participants can submit questions online at any point during the program, which will be moderated by Alan Weil.


States and localities have long been interested in imposing assessments on employers to help fund health reform initiatives. Including employers in health care financing takes advantage of the historic role of employer-based health coverage while providing alternative health care options for uninsured workers through broadly shared financing. However, the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) can become an issue when state or local laws appear to affect whether and how employers offer worker health coverage. In the last three years, federal courts of appeal have reached different conclusions about whether ERISA preempts employer “pay or play” laws in Maryland and California.

During this Web seminar, you will hear from officials in San Francisco and Massachusetts about how two recent health reform initiatives that include employer assessments are working on the ground. You will also learn how states and localities can include these types of assessments in financing health care programs while minimizing the threat of ERISA challenges.


There is no cost to participate, but registration is required. Register to attend here.

Once you’re registered, we’ll send you reminders about the program and login information.

Computer Requirements:

This program will be presented live entirely over the internet. All you need to attend is a computer with internet access and Windows Media Player or Real Media Live installed. External audio speakers are recommended.


For questions about the program, contact NASHP’s Sarabeth Zemel at