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Health Care Service Corporation v. Pollitt, et al.  (09-38) 
Whether Federal Employees Health Benefits Act preempts state law claims 
 
This case was settled, and removed from the Supreme Court's docket - February 24, 2010

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Pollitt, a federal employee, sued Health Care Services Corp (HCSC) (administrator of her job-provided health insurance) in state court under a state-law theory of bad-faith conduct by insurers. She claimed that HCSC stopped paying claims on behalf of her son. HCSC claimed that it acted under the Department of Labor's instructions that Pollitt's coverage did not extend to her son. Pollitt claimed that HCSC acted on its own after DOL failed to pay the appropriate premium. 

HCSC removed the case to federal district court, where the court dismissed it as preempted by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act. 

The 7th Circuit reversed. The court made two main holdings: (1) the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act does not "completely preempt" state law (which would have made the case removable and subject to dismissal), and (2) assuming HCSC was acting on DOL orders, the federal officer removal statute allows removal but the case must be dismissed because the named defendant is the insurance carrier rather than the Office of Personnel Management or the employing federal agency. 

The US Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the judgment of the 7th Circuit. 

Case below: Pollitt v. Health Care Service Corporation, 558 F.3d 615 (7th Cir 03/10/2009) 
Official docket sheet 
Certiorari granted October 13, 2009.
Oral argument:  This case was settled, and removed from the Supreme Court's docket - February 24, 2010. [Order]

Question presented:   

1. Whether the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act ("FEHBA"), 5 U.S.C. §§ 8901-14, completely preempts -- and therefore makes removable to federal court -- a state court suit challenging enrollment and health benefits determinations that are subject to the exclusively federal remedial scheme established in FEHBA.

2. Whether the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1), which authorizes federal removal jurisdiction over state court suits brought against persons "acting under" a federal officer when sued for actions "under color of [federal] ... office," encompasses a suit against a government contractor administering a FEHBA plan, where the contractor is sued for actions taken pursuant to the government contract.

Certiorari Documents: 

Briefs on the merits: 

Counsel:

  • For Petitioner: Anthony F. Shelley; Miller & Chevalier, Chartered; 655 Fifteenth Street, NW, Suite 900; Washington, DC  20005-5701; (202) 626-5800.  
  • For Respondents: Michael A. Nash; 12538 W. Barstow Avenue; Beach Park, IL  60087; (847) 263-9504.

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