FEHBA, a 1959 law, gave birth to the Federal Employees Health Benefits program.
In 1978, four years after Congress passed ERISA, Congress added a state benefits law preemption clause to FEHBA. The FEHBA preemption clause states that the benefits provisions of any contract with a FEHB plan issuer shall supersede any state or local law that conflicts with the plan contract provisions.
Coventry Health Care argued that FEHBA should preempt the state law.
In oral arguments last week, Matthew Wessler, a lawyer for Nevils, rejected the idea that Congress meant for FEHBA to preempt ordinary state insurance laws.
(126) While agreeing with Judge Kozinski that the spouse could not be excluded from coverage, (127) Judge Reinhardt rejected that FEHBA
was ambiguous and instead addressed the constitutionality of DOMA.