November 06, 2023


The Employee Retirement Income Security Act – or ERISA – plays a significant role in keeping employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) affordable and accessible. Specifically, ERISA’s preemption provision protects self-insured employers – and those they cover – from a complicated patchwork of disparate state laws that would complicate plan design, increase administrative and compliance burdens, and interfere with the ability to offer uniform benefits to employees.  This preemption protection is fundamental to the affordability and stability of the employer-sponsored system, which provides coverage to more than 160 million Americans. 

Earlier this year a closely watched case threatened ERISA’s nearly 50-year-old preemption framework; however, the court correctly applied ERISA’s preemption provision to protect plan sponsors’ authority over plan design. This summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that ERISA preempts several provisions of an Oklahoma law that would have limited employers’ plan design choices around network, cost-savings, and patient safety. This decision highlights ERISA’s significance in protecting self-insured employers from a 50-state patchwork of complicated or contradictory regulations.  

This ruling comes at a time when there are multiple, ongoing efforts at the federal and state level to erode ERISA preemption. The court’s ruling is a significant win for employers who rely on ERISA preemption to allow them to provide uniform and affordable coverage to their workers. A different interpretation of ERISA’s preemption clause would have eroded this protection, created considerable uncertainty, and driven up health costs for employers and employees. That’s why it is critical to preserve ERISA preemption and protect the ability of businesses to offer uniform benefits for American workers regardless of where they live.   

To learn more about ERISA and its role in stabilizing the ESI system, click here

About the authors

Protecting Americans’ Coverage Together (PACT)

The Protecting Americans’ Coverage Together (PACT) is a coalition of leading business voices that are dedicated to strengthening the support of ESI for families that depend on this system for the physical and mental well-being. Its members include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, Council for Affordable Health Coverage, and Vermeer Corporation.

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