April 15, 2008
For additional information:
Jason Hammersla

Rep. Boustany joins Council to brief media:
San Francisco case represents threat to ERISA; preemption standard essential for plan sponsors

WASHINGTON, D.C. — "For more than 30 years, America's voluntary employer-sponsored health care system has relied upon the federal standards provided by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA)," American Benefits Council President James A. Klein said at a media briefing today, two days before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is to hear oral arguments in the pivotal case regarding the San Francisco Health Care Security Ordinance.

"Innovation at the state and local level to expand access to health care coverage is important. But it must not come at the expense of ERISA's critical preemption standards and the millions of people who rely on their employers for health care coverage," Klein said. "The San Francisco law will restrict employers' ability to uniformly administer multi-state health plans by forcing employers to make certain choices that result in modification or establishment of an employee benefit plan — exactly the sort of state or local regulation ERISA was intended to preempt."

Representative Charles W. Boustany, Jr. (R-LA) participated in the Council's media briefing to offer his perspective on the need to protect ERISA's federal preemption standards. "Congressman Boustany has been an outspoken champion on this issue because he recognizes that ERISA's protections benefit employees and their families, as well as employer plan sponsors," Klein said.

Also joining the Council, to provide the employer plan sponsor perspective, were Council members Janet Boyd, director of government relations, tax & benefits for Dow Chemical Company, and Martin Reiser, manager, government policy for Xerox Corporation and chairman of the National Coalition on Benefits. "Employers are on the front lines of the health care debate," Klein said. "Eroding ERISA would not only threaten employer coverage, it would stifle the innovation that employers are actively trying to implement."

"Ultimately, health reform efforts affecting employers must build on the established federal framework that preserves uniformity in plan design and administration. A patchwork solution based on numerous state and local initiatives will do nothing to improve health care quality, availability or affordability," Klein concluded.

The following materials were provided at the briefing:

To arrange an interview with a Council staff member, please contact Jason Hammersla, Council director, communications, at or by phone at (202) 289-6700.

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The American Benefits Council is the national trade association for companies concerned about federal legislation and regulations affecting all aspects of the employee benefits system. The Council's members represent the entire spectrum of the private employee benefits community and either sponsor directly or administer retirement and health plans covering more than 100 million Americans.