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Supreme Court to hear private health industry protections, disability and retirement, governmental exceptions to automated calls
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Supreme Court to hear private health industry protections, disability and retirement, governmental exceptions to automated calls

The US Supreme Court agreed to hear three new cases on Friday. These cases address protection of individuals using retirement and health plans from the private industry, a review of statutory interpretation regarding judicial review of Railroad Retirement Board decisions, and a determination of whether a government debt exception is legal under a law protecting against automated calls.

The first case, Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management, seeks to overturn court precedent regarding regulation of pharmacy benefit managers’ (PBMs) drug-reimbursement rates. The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled previously that PBM regulations “are categorically not preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.” Although this case was brought from Arkansas, a total of 36 states have passed legislation “to curb abusive prescription drug reimbursement practices by [PBMs, which are] claims-processing middlemen.” The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 sets minimum standards for the majority of retirement and health plans in the private industry in order to protect those who have these plans. The lower court decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that Arkansas’ statute regulating PBMs’ reimbursement rates is not preempted by the Act, which was contrary to the Supreme Court precedent that the Act does not preempt rate regulation.

The second case, Manfredo M. Salinas v. United States Railroad Retirement Board, entails the request by Salinas to reopen the denial of his disability annuity application based on the Railroad Retirement Act. According to the appellants, this case is raising a question of statutory interpretation. The issue lies in whether Congress provided judicial review of the decisions made by the Railroad Retirement board denying requests to reopen prior benefits claims. Regarding this issue, there is currently a 7-3 circuit split. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reviewed Manfredo’s case and ruled that they lacked jurisdiction to review the Board’s decision not to reopen the case.

The third case, Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, addresses a government-dept exception to a restriction on automated calls laid out in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. The Court of Appeals held in this case that the government debt exception violated the First Amendment and that the best remedy was to sever it. While the severability issue was ruled to not be worthy of certiorari on its own, parties agreed that this case would be a proper vehicle for having the issue addressed.

The Supreme Court will also be hearing its first oral arguments of 2020 beginning Monday.

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