ALBANY — In a ruling with national significance for patients of health maintenance organizations, the State Court of Appeals held yesterday that federal law does not bar state malpractice actions against HMO doctors for negligent delay in seeking approval for necessary treatment.

Although the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act preempts all state law claims relating to the administration of employee benefit plans, the Court said in a unanimous opinion by Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye that claims based on a physician’s delay in complying with his HMO’s administrative requirements for obtaining treatment “do not dictate the administration of such a plan and do not interfere with a uniform administrative scheme.”

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