Obama Administration Supports Healthy San Francisco in Lawsuit
On Friday, the Obama administration urged the Supreme Court to reject an appeal by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association alleging that provisions of the Healthy San Francisco program are illegal, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Lawmakers passed the Healthy San Francisco ordinance in 2006 to provide health services to 73,000 adult city residents who were not eligible for Medi-Cal -- California's Medicaid program -- or for Medicare. More than 53,000 individuals currently receive coverage through the program, city officials say.
Healthy San Francisco costs $200 million annually, more than 80% of which is funded by local and state taxes and patient contributions. Under the program, companies must spend a specific dollar amount on employee health care or pay an equal amount to the city to help offset their workers' care costs at hospitals and clinics.
In its suit, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association argued that the city is not authorized to require large and mid-size companies to contribute financially to the program.
In 2008, a federal appeals court upheld the ordinance, ruling that the city was not regulating employee benefit plans but allowing companies to choose whether to pay their employees' care costs or pay the city to offset them (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/29).
In October 2009, the Supreme Court asked the Obama administration to weigh in on GGRA's lawsuit (California Healthline, 5/6/2009).
Obama Administration Response
On Friday, the Obama administration said the law does not require employers to provide specific benefits, which is not allowed under legal precedent, and "does not warrant [the Supreme Court's] review at this time."
The administration noted the new health reform law would reduce the likelihood that local and state governments would enact laws similar to San Francisco's because the overhaul mandates that large employers offer insurance to their workers and that individuals maintain coverage (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.