Document Type


Publication Date



The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is a federal law regulating the administration of private employer-sponsored benefits including health benefits (i.e., health insurance offered by an employer). In general, since the federal government has exercised its authority to preempt state regulation of the administration of private employer-sponsored health plans, states are blocked from enforcing laws interfering with ERISA.

As many states pursue health care reform experiments, ERISA preemption becomes relevant as a potential limit on the scope and type of reforms states are able to enact. The dominant trend in ERISA litigation has been to preempt state legislation and litigation interfering with the administration of private employer sponsored health plans, making large-scale state health care reform initiatives difficult. The purpose of this paper is to examine the trajectory of judicial interpretation of ERISA and to discuss what opportunities exist to facilitate health care initiatives given the constraints of ERISA preemption.