FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
AG Nessel Joins Coalition in Defending States’ Rights to Regulate Health Insurance and Protect Consumers
Coalition Argues that Expanding the Scope of ERISA Eviscerates Critical Protections and Undermines Federalism
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of 22 attorneys general in urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to protect states’ historic power to regulate insurance and protect their residents from fraud, abuse, or substandard health coverage.
The coalition filed the brief in Data Marketing Partnership v. U.S. Department of Labor, a case that challenged the Department of Labor’s conclusion that a scheme—under which users obtain health insurance in exchange for sharing data as they browse the internet—failed to qualify as an “employee benefit plan” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
“The Department of Labor got it right. This type of scheme is not an employee benefit plan, and characterizing it as one allows bad actors to skirt state-level regulations that are vital to protecting residents from fraud and abuse in the healthcare industry,” Nessel said. “I join my colleagues in defending states’ rights to regulate health insurance and protect consumers.”
ERISA is a federal statute regulating employee welfare and benefit plans. Where applicable, ERISA preempts—that is, supersedes—state law, meaning that certain ERISA plans are immune from direct state regulation. Because states heavily regulate the sale of insurance to protect consumers, opportunistic entities have historically tried to disguise health plans sold to consumers as certain ERISA-based employee health plans to avoid state insurance rules.
In this case, Plaintiff Data Marketing Partnership runs a “partnership” that provides health insurance to thousands of “limited partners” in exchange for allowing an entity to collect and sell any electronic data generated by the limited partners as they use their personal devices and surf the Internet. DOL concluded that based on the partnership’s own description, the plan failed to qualify under any of ERISA’s provisions, but a federal judge in Texas invalidated that decision and ordered DOL to treat the plan as a valid ERISA scheme.
In the amicus brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the coalition argues that treating this scheme as an employee benefit plan under ERISA encroaches on states’ historic authority to regulate insurance and protect consumers, upsets the guardrails the Supreme Court and Congress have placed on ERISA’s scope, and disregards the actual nature of the relationship between Data Marketing Partnership and its limited partners, which has none of the hallmarks of an employer-employee relationship.
In the amicus brief, the coalition argues that:
Joining Attorney General Nessel in filing this brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 15, 2021
Governor Whitmer Announces Steps to Fight Payroll Fraud and Prioritize Michigan Jobs in State Purchasing Decisions
LANSING, Mich. – Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced changes to protocols for state contract bids to implement the Michigan Jobs First Executive Directive 2019-15. These new protections will level the playing field for companies that play by the rules, allowing companies to compete fairly while protecting workers’ wages and health care. The new processes also account for the overall economic impact of a state contract on Michigan’s economy.
“Michigan is home to the hardest working people and best businesses in the world, and our state should work to ensure that more of our Michigan tax dollars support Michigan workers and businesses at every opportunity,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “We want Michigan to be a home for opportunity for everyone, which begins with supporting businesses that provide fair wages and good benefits. Today’s actions strengthen our commitment to these priorities and bring the greatest possible benefit to Michigan’s businesses, workers, and families.”
Under the new protocols, the Department of Technology, Management and Budget will have bidders complete a vendor questions worksheet, which includes disclosure of a bidder’s labor and environmental compliance record, disclosure of information related to economic impact in Michigan, and a certification that the bidder has properly classified its employees. These disclosures and certifications protect workers against payroll fraud, which can happen when a business misclassifies its employees as “independent cont
By taking these steps, the state will fully account for the overall economic impact of the potential supplier’s bid on Michigan businesses and workers, the wages and benefits offered by the supplier to its workers, the supplier’s track record of labor and environmental compliance, and the supplier’s commitment to economically-disadvantaged
As part of the implementation of Executive Directive 2019-15, DTMB also began a rulemaking process to allow for debarment of suppliers who demonstrate a lack of integrity.
“For companies that are doing the right thing, these anti-fraud measures are an important step forward that can promote fairness, competition, and greater workplace protections,” said Tom Lutz, Executive Secretary-Trea
According to Economic Policy Institute analysis, payroll fraud costs Michigan workers an estimated $429 million in wages and overtime pay between 2013 and 2015, impacting more than 2.8 million workers. Meanwhile, Michigan taxpayers are shortchanged $107 million a year in revenue through tax fraud when businesses misclassify workers by reporting employees as self-employed independent contractors or paying them off the books as a way to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, a Michigan State University study found.
Governor Whitmer’s announcement is the latest effort to fight tax and payroll fraud: In 2019, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel created a special task force to investigate and prosecute payroll fraud.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 15, 2021
Gov. Whitmer Lowers Flags to Honor Former State Sen. Mark Jansen
LANSING, Mich. – Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered U.S. and Michigan flags within the State Capitol Complex to be lowered to half-staff on Friday, April 16 to honor the life and service of former State Sen. Mark Jansen. The flag honors will coincide with his celebration of life.
“Our state mourns loss of former state Senator Mark Jansen,” Governor Whitmer said. “He was someone who was deeply respected across the aisle. He will be remembered for his many years of dedicate
Mark Jansen was born on September 13, 1959. He was a graduate of Grand Valley State University. He served as Gaines Township clerk from 1992 to 1996, as a state representative in the Michigan House from 1997 to 2002, and as a state senator in the Michigan Senate from 2007 to 2014. He also served as the director of the child care licensing division for the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
Jansen passed away on Tuesday, March 23 at the age of 61 years old.
The State of Michigan recognizes the duty, honor and selfless service of former state Senator Mark Jansen by lowering flags to half-staff. Michigan residents, businesses, schools, local governments and other organizations also are encouraged to display the flag at half-staff.
To lower flags to half-staff, flags should be hoisted first to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The process is reversed before the flag is lowered for the day.
Flags should be returned to full-staff on Saturday, April 17.
Unemployment Extended Benefits program ends April 17
April 14, 2021
Media Contact: Lynda Robinson, 313-348-8220
Due to the State of Michigan’s lower unemployment rate, the U.S. Department of Labor notified the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency to confirm that our state’s Extended Benefits (EB) program will no longer be payable after the week ending April 17, 2021. Extended Benefits are available when a Michigan’s total unemployment rate averages 6.5% or higher for three consecutive months.
The EB program goes into effect when the unemployment rate is high and provides an additional 13-20 weeks of benefits for those who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits and other extension programs.
“Fortunately, with the federal extensions that were implemented on March 27, claimants who were on the Extended Benefits program most likely will be able to receive benefits through other federal programs such as Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), said Liza Estlund Olson, acting director of the Unemployment Insurance Agency.
Michigan has paid approximately $419M in Extended Benefits since high unemployment rates triggered the Extended Benefits program. The Agency has begun notifying the 16,000 claimants currently receiving Extended Benefits to ensure they are aware that the week ending April 17, 2021, is the last payable week for these benefits.
If a claimant who was receiving Extended Benefits cannot establish a new, regular claim, or is not entitled to PEUC or PUA benefits, the claimant is no longer eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
Other state assistance programs are available for Michiganders who need assistance with making ends meet. Through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, claimants can apply for healthcare coverage, food and cash assistance and other assistance program as well as find other helpful state and local resources through the MI Bridges.
Michiganders looking for employment are encouraged to visit Pure Michigan Talent Connect at MiTalent.org for a listing of more than 77,000 available jobs. The Michigan Works! system has service centers across Michigan with free job search resources including workshops, virtual job fairs, or career exploration and training. Call 800-285-WORKS (9675) or go online to MichiganWorks.org.