Ruling Lets Provision of San Francisco Health Law Continue
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy denied the Golden Gate Restaurant Association's request to stop San Francisco from requiring employers to spend a certain amount on health care, either in coverage for their workers or in payments to the city, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Kennedy deals with emergency requests for the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in San Francisco.
In December 2007, the city expanded its universal health access program, called Healthy San Francisco, to make large- and medium-sized companies subject to the program's requirements.
GGRA won two court rulings invalidating the provision of the law that requires employer spending, but the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the provision to take effect while the case was on appeal.
The three-judge panel also said San Francisco is likely to win its case because it is not trying to regulate employee benefit plans. Instead, the panel found that the law aims to give employers several options to improve their workers' health care, according to the Chronicle (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/22).
Justice Kennedy did not offer a written opinion on his ruling, a move that GGRA Executive Director Kevin Westlye said did not "tip [Kennedy's] hand" as to the legal reasoning behind his decision (Smith, San Francisco Examiner, 2/22).
Lawyers for the city and unions said the U.S. Supreme Court does not need to intervene because a hearing in the appeal is scheduled for April 17, before the April 30 due date for employers' first payments to San Francisco under the provision (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/22).
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's (D) office said the city hopes to expand access to about 40,000 more uninsured residents in 2008 (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 2/21).
Tangerine Brigham, director of the program, said about 12,500 city residents have enrolled in Healthy San Francisco so far (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/22).