The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review three cases in which
federal appellate courts found health care institutions’ pension plans
were not ‘church plans’ under the definition in the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act.
The cases for which petitions for writs of certiorari were granted include Dignity Health v. Rollins, Saint Peter’s Healthcare System v. Kaplan and Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton.
Advocate and Saint Peter’s first petitioned
the Supreme Court questioning whether ERISA's church plan exemption
applies so long as a pension plan is maintained by an otherwise
qualifying church-affiliated organization, or whether the exemption
applies only if, in addition, a church initially established the plan.
Appellate courts in both cases found that the health care systems’
pension plans were not church plans under ERISA because they were not established by a church.
In September, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed a court’s mandate
that Dignity Health get its pension plan in compliance with ERISA until
a decision is made on the health care provider’s petition for writ of
certiorari of its lawsuit.
In granting the petitions, the Supreme Court said the cases are
consolidated and a total of one hour is allotted for oral argument.