A federal appeals court today upheld a controversial provision requiring employers to help pay for the city of San Francisco’s pioneering universal health care program.
The program, known as Healthy San Francisco, is intended to provide coordinated health care to the city’s 73,000 uninsured residents.
Part of the cost – an estimated $12 million out of $200 million annually – is to be paid by employers, who have a choice of either setting up a health insurance plan for their workers or making payments directly to the city.
The rest of the cost is paid by government funding and sliding fees for participants.
The employer contribution was challenged by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, which claimed it conflicted with a federal law regulating employee benefit plans.
But a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today there was no conflict.
Circuit Judge William Fletcher wrote that providing health care services to low-income residents “has long been the province of state and local governments.”
City Attorney Dennis Herrera called the ruling “a sweeping victory for the city’s effort to provide comprehensive health care for the residents of San Francisco.”
Healthy San Francisco spokeswoman Eileen Shields said the plan now serves 30,000 residents.
The spending requirement applies to businesses with 20 or more workers.
A spokesperson for the restaurant association was not immediately available for comment.
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