Employer Funding of S.F. Health Program Stirs Debate
Last week, a three-judge panel appeared likely to uphold a provision of San Francisco's health care access program that would require employers to spend a certain amount on health care, either in coverage for their workers or in payments to the city.
The Healthy San Francisco program is intended to ensure access to health care services at San Francisco clinics and the city's public hospital for San Francisco's 73,000 uninsured residents.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association challenged the employer contribution provision of the law, arguing that it violates the 1974 federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The law, called ERISA, governs regulation of employee benefits.
The panel of judges from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seemed skeptical of a previous ruling to prevent the Healthy San Francisco program from requiring employers to meet minimum contribution levels to employee health insurance benefits or help fund the program.
The city is appealing the ruling (California Healthline, 1/4).
Summaries of an editorial and opinion piece regarding the Healthy San Francisco program appear below.
- San Diego Union-Tribune: "A ruling in favor of San Francisco's employer mandate in coming days seems certain," a Union-Tribune editorial states. "Congress should consider giving states ERISA exemptions and allowing them to experiment," according to the editorial. "Without such an exemption," a plan to overhaul California's health care system "is a waste of time -- and an exercise in getting up the hopes of millions for no good reason," the editorial states (San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/8).
- John Graham, San Francisco Chronicle: The "actual result" of the Healthy San Francisco program would not have been "'universal' health care" but "unemployment among our most vulnerable, lowest-earning workers and lost revenue for restaurateurs and shopkeepers," Graham, director of Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, writes in a Chronicle opinion piece. "The solution to San Francisco's health crisis is not more taxes and government bureaucracy that make life more expensive for everyone," Graham writes, adding, "The solution is to give money and power back to the patients who need it" (Graham, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/8).