Fossen, et al. v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of MT, Inc., No. 10-36001 (9th Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
This appeal presented the question of whether a provision of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Pub. L. No. 104-191, 110 Stat. 1936, preempted Montana's "little HIPAA" law, Mont. Code Ann. 33-22-526(2)(a), for purposes of both conferring federal subject matter jurisdiction and defeating state-law causes of action on the merits. The federal and state HIPAA provisions at issue prohibited certain insurers from charging different premiums to similarly situated participants on account of a participant's health and status-related factor. The court affirmed the district court and held that federal HIPAA preempted the Montana law, both jurisdictionally and on the merits, because Montana's HIPAA provision was identical to, and expressly relied upon, federal law. The court held, however, that federal law did not preempt a claim for relief under a separate Montana unfair insurance practices statute that barred insurers from engaging in unfair discrimination when charging policy premiums to similarly situated individuals, Mont. Code Ann. 33-18-206(2).