Restaurant group takes city healthcare mandate
to U.S. Supreme Court
By Julia Cheever
February 14, 2008
A U.S. Supreme Court justice has been asked by a group of San
Francisco restaurant owners to step into a dispute about whether
businesses should be asked to help pay for the city's pioneering
health care plan.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association on Friday asked Justice
Anthony Kennedy to suspend an employer spending requirement until
an appeal is completed.
Association lawyers wrote that allowing the city to enforce the
requirement during the appeal would undermine national uniformity
in worker benefit plans and "cause confusion far beyond San
Kennedy is the Supreme Court judge who handles emergency appeals
from California and other western states within the jurisdiction
of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Justice Anthony Kennedy
Photo courtesy Academy
San Francisco city attorney's office spokesman Matt Dorsey said
that Kennedy's staff late Wednesday asked the city to file a response
to the restaurant owners' papers by next Wednesday.
The city's Healthy San Francisco program is aimed at providing
health care for 73,000 uninsured residents who aren't covered
by other government programs.
The measure requires employers to contribute a portion of the
financing for the program. Businesses with 20 or more workers
must spend a set amount per worker either on their own plans or
on payments to the city.
After the restaurant association sued to challenge the spending
mandate, a federal trial judge ruled that the requirement violates
a U.S. law that regulates employee benefit plans.
But last month, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit issued an emergency
stay allowing the city to go ahead with requiring employer contributions
while it appeals the trial court ruling. The panel said the city
has a strong likelihood of winning the full appeal and that a
stay would avoid "preventable human suffering."
The restaurant group's petition to Kennedy asks the high court
justice to set aside that stay.
Dorsey said the city's position is that the appeals court is
"already moving quickly" on the full appeal and that
there is no reason to overturn the stay.
The appeals court has ordered an expedited briefing on the full
appeal, with final briefs due April 11. It is expected to set
a hearing on the appeal soon afterwards.
The employer mandate requires businesses with 20 to 99 workers
to spend $1.17 per hour per employee and those with staffs of
more than 100 to spend $1.76 per hour on health care plans or
payments to the city.