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NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLES. UNION v. CAMPBELL

June 30, 1977

NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION, Plaintiff
v.
ALAN K. CAMPBELL,* et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WADDY

 This action for declaratory and injunctive relief and for damages challenges the Government-Wide Service Benefit Plan health insurance rates, and that rate making procedure, as established under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act of 1959 (hereinafter Act), as amended, 5 U.S.C. §§ 8901-8913.

 Plaintiff National Treasury Employees Union is a public employee union whose membership is comprised of persons employed by the United States Treasury Department and the Federal Energy Administration. The union brings this suit in its own name, and as the exclusive bargaining representative of those union members enrolled in the Service Benefit Plan. Defendants are the Chairman of the United States Civil Service Commission (hereinafter Commission), the Director of the Commission's Bureau of Retirement, Insurance and Occupational Health, and the United States.

 Counts I and IV of the complaint charge that the health insurance rate increases established for 1976 are excessive and violative of the Commission's duty to set rates which "reasonably and equitably reflect the cost of the benefits provided." 5 U.S.C. § 8902(i). Count IV specifically alleges that the inclusion in the health insurance rates of a "public service charge" is unreasonable, inequitable, and contrary to the Health Benefits Act. Counts II and III further allege that the Commission has failed to comply with the requirements and policies of the applicable Federal Procurement Regulations, 41 C.F.R., Ch. 1, in contracting for federal employee health benefits for the years 1976 and 1977, respectively.

 This case came on before the Court on June 21, 1977 for a hearing on defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), Fed. R. Civ. P., for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, or in the alternative for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(b), Fed. R. Civ. P. Also before the Court are plaintiff's unopposed motions to add plaintiffs and to add defendants. Having considered the arguments raised in the various memoranda filed in support of and in opposition to defendants' motion, the complaint, the arguments of counsel at the hearing, and the entire record herein, the Court concludes for the reasons hereinafter set forth that the motion to dismiss should be granted with respect to Counts I and IV of the complaint, and that the motion for summary judgment should be granted with respect to Counts II and III of the complaint. Accordingly, plaintiff's motions to add parties, having no effect upon the Court's determination of defendants' motion, should be denied as moot.

 Plaintiff invokes the jurisdiction of this Court pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 8912 and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1361, 2201. Declaratory judgment relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2201 is available only "[in] a case of actual controversy within [a court's] jurisdiction . . . ." Therefore, defendants' motion to dismiss requires, first, a determination of whether jurisdiction exists under either 5 U.S.C. § 8912 or 28 U.S.C. § 1361.

 5 U.S.C. § 8912 provides that:

 
The district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, concurrent with the Court of Claims, of a civil action or claim against the United States founded on this chapter.

 The concurrent jurisdiction of the Court of Claims is expressly referenced by section 8912. It seems the intent of the drafters that the jurisdiction conferred upon the district courts be for the same types of actions under the Act as are properly brought in the Court of Claims.

 Establishment of health insurance rates and rate readjustments under the Health Benefits Act are Congressionally committed to the judgment of the Commission. 5 U.S.C. § 8902(i). An examination of the Act reveals no standard of review upon which this Court might act if jurisdiction were proper under 5 U.S.C. § 8912.

 The language of Justice Douglas in Panama Canal Co. v. Grace Line, Inc., 356 U.S. 309, 2 L. Ed. 2d 788, 78 S. Ct. 752 (1958) appears particularly appropriate here:

 
. . . [The] present conflict rages over questions that at heart involve problems of statutory construction and cost accounting . . . . These are matters on which experts may disagree; they involve nice issues of judgment and choice, [citation omitted], which require the exercise of informed discretion. [citations omitted] The case is, therefore, quite unlike the situation where a statute creates a duty to act and an equity court is asked to compel the agency to take the prescribed action. Panama Canal Co., supra, 356 U.S. at 317-8.

 Similarly, the complex accounting and actuarial matters involved in setting health insurance rates for federal employees should be left to the expertise and judgment of the Civil Service Commission. These are not matters contemplated by a section 8912 claim against the United States. The pro forma joinder of the United States as a defendant notwithstanding, counts I and IV of this complaint would not be cognizable by the Court of Claims, 28 U.S.C. § 1491. Accordingly, ...


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