Supreme Court rejects restaurant group bid
to suspend City health care mandate
By Julia Cheever
February 22, 2008
A bid by a restaurant owners' group to halt a mandate for businesses
to help pay for the city of San Francisco's health plan was turned
down by a U.S. Supreme Court justice yesterday.
Justice Anthony Kennedy declined to grant the Golden Gate Restaurant
for suspension of the employer spending mandate until an appeal
Justice Anthony Kennedy
Photo courtesy Academy
The employer contributions are intended to pay for part of the
city's pioneering Healthy San Francisco Program, aimed at providing
health care for 73,000 uninsured residents. Other funding is from
city, state and federal governments.
Kennedy's action may make little immediate difference, because
the contribution requirement doesn't kick in until April 30 in
the case of businesses with more than 50 workers and July 30 for
employers with 20 to 49 workers.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco is scheduled to hold
a hearing on April 17 on an underlying lawsuit in which the restaurant
group is challenging the spending requirement.
The panel is expected to rule quickly, possibly by the April
30 spending deadline.
Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for San Francisco City Attorney Dennis
Herrera, said, "We're pleased with Justice Kennedy's order
but at same time not especially surprised. We saw no irreparable
harm to the employers."
The employer spending is expected to contribute about $12 million
of the annual $200 million cost of the health program when it
is fully implemented in two years.
Businesses with 20 or more employees are required to spend a
set amount per worker on either their own health insurance program
or payments to the city. Those with 50 or more workers must spend
$1.76 per hour and those with 20 to 49 employees must spend $1.17
In previous court proceedings, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White
ruled in December that the employer spending requirement violates
a U.S. law that regulates employee benefit plans.
But in January, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
issued an emergency stay allowing the city to go ahead with implementing
the requirement while it appeals the trial court ruling.
The restaurant group's unsuccessful petition to Kennedy asked
for a suspension of that stay. A spokesman for the group was not
immediately available for comment.