Insurance plan

DOL takes on data miner over new health insurance plan

The headquarters of the United States Department of Labor in Washington, DC REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • DOL said agreeing to be tracked online does not create an employment relationship
  • Lower court disagreed, said plan buyers were ‘working owners’
  • DOL and amici say it opens the floodgates to unwanted plans

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(Reuters) – A data mining firm and federal regulators will square off in a U.S. appeals court on Wednesday over a 2020 ruling that critics say erases the need to offer health insurance to the benefit employees only in a genuine employment context and encourage risky “junk plans”.

The U.S. Department of Labor wants the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a federal judge’s ruling in Fort Worth, Texas that health insurance policies offered by Data Marketing Partnership LP are health insurance plans. benefits, not state-regulated private health insurance.

According to DMP’s appeal briefs, the Texas-based company was formed in 2018 to give internet users a financial stake in the booming data aggregation market.

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Users join DMP’s limited partnership by downloading tracking software, with the option to share profits from future sales of aggregated data. The only immediate benefit, however, is the ability to purchase low-cost health insurance through the company, at the user’s expense.

DMP sued the Department of Labor in October 2019, a year after it sought an advisory opinion that would allow it to market the plans as complying with the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which governs benefits provided by the employer. ERISA plans are exempt from most state regulations, and large plans like DMPs are also exempt from many of the coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

The department’s notice, filed in January 2020, called DMP’s partnership agreement a deception designed solely to market private insurance. He said agreeing to be tracked online does not create an employment relationship recognized by ERISA.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor disagreed, saying DMP’s thousands of health plan purchasers are clearly ERISA-eligible “working owners” who have a stake in DMP and him. actively provide services.

In an email, DMP lawyer Jonathan Crumly of Taylor English Duma said they were “just asking that the government stick to the rules and guidelines they have created.”

Government lawyers declined to comment. Their appeal brief to the 5th Circuit says O’Connor lacked jurisdiction to review the advisory opinion, erred in ERISA’s analysis, and exceeded his authority by blocking future compliance investigations. ERISA from DMP.

The department has won the support of amicus from 21 states and the District of Columbia, 12 insurance regulators and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, who argue the ruling will undermine states’ power to enforce coverage minimums. , solvency standards and other regulations.

Other supporters include Blue Cross Blue Shield, Public Citizen and several patient advocacy groups who say O’Connor’s order “allows ‘undesirable’ insurance” and jeopardizes “the benefits of patient negotiation.” ‘insurance for the patients who need it most’.

The case is Data Marketing Partnership LP v. US Department of Labor, 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals No. 20-11179

For DMP: Jonathan Crumly of Taylor English Duma; and Warren Harris of Bracewell

For the Department of Labor: Michael Shih and Mark Stern of the United States Department of Justice, Civil Division

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