The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is allowing the City of San Francisco to move forward with its new health care plan despite the recent ruling of the U.S. Federal District Court. A few weeks ago Judge Jeffrey White ruled that the funding component of the plan violated The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA)
Bob Egelko at the San Francisco Chronicle offers a simple summation in his analysis of the situation:
That provision requires large and medium-size companies to offer insurance to their employees or pay a fee to the city for the cost of their coverage. The court said the city probably would win its argument that U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White was wrong when he ruled Dec. 26 that local governments lack the power to force employers to contribute to a health care program. [...]Avoidable suffering was cited by Judge Williams Fletcher as a reason for the 3-0 decision. According to Egelko's article the case has been prioritized and final written arguments are due this April with a possible decision this year.
The law was challenged by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, which represents more than 900 Bay Area establishments. Dan Scherotter, the association's incoming president, said the restaurants were disappointed but would comply with the ruling and remained confident of winning after the court hears all the evidence.
For more detail on this topic I would advise reading the primer on the case posted yesterday on the Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog. As usual Mr. Katz included a number of useful sources including a link to the actual court decision and some thoughts concerning the ramifications of this decision for California's proposed statewide health care plan (ABX1-1).
ABX1-1 and its companion ballot initiative create a similar funding mechanism at the state level. Opponents of the legislation claim it, too, violates ERISA. This decision undermines the argument of those critics.Only time will tell what impact the precedents set in this case will have on the reform of health care across the nation. One thing is certain: no matter what the final decision is, it will have a far-reaching ripple effect.
Or as Speaker Nunez put it in a statement issued by his office today, in what can be considered the political equivalent of a running back's victory dance in the end zone, "Opponents of health care reform now have one less rubber arrow in their quiver as they try to stop our historic effort to fix the broken system and make health care more affordable and accessible to the people of California."
SOURCE: "Ninth Circuit Allows SF Health Plan to Go Forward" 01/09/08
SOURCE: "Appeals court allows S.F. to enforce health care law" 10/10/08
photo courtesy of tinkerroll21, used under this Creative Commons license