San Francisco Defends Employer Mandate In Health Access Program
San Francisco attorneys in a court filing on Friday defended the city's authority to require all businesses to contribute to a new program designed to provide access to health care services for all city residents, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association filed a lawsuit against the city in response to the employer fee requirement (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/13).
Healthy San Francisco, formerly the Health Access Program, earlier this month began enrollment at two public health clinics in Chinatown. Full enrollment is scheduled to begin in January 2008.
Mandatory contributions from businesses will help pay for the estimated $200 million annual tab to run the program.
Attorneys representing the restaurant group said the mandate violates the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a federal law involving the regulation of employee health benefits.
Kevin Westlye, president of the association, said state or local laws -- including San Francisco's new program -- cannot pre-empt the federal ERISA (California Healthline, 7/13).
The city attorney's office in Friday's court ruling said the program does not violate ERISA because it would require businesses to pay for health care, not to provide or modify health plans for workers.
The case could become a test of the authority of state and local governments to require employers to fund health care coverage.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White on Aug. 31 is scheduled to decide whether to let the lawsuit proceed. The start of a nonjury trial tentatively is scheduled to begin Nov. 13 (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/14).