Friday, October 3, 2008

Feds Uphold San Fran Health Care Program

Sacramento, California, has been the center of much contention about health care reform. One aspect in particular has not only come under fire in the press but also has been the subject of litigation spearheaded by restaurants in the area.

Gov. Schwarzenegger's plan requires a level of financial participation from employers heretofore unseen in the state. As is usual when people or groups are asked to pay more, the reaction was far from positive. A court battle rapidly ensued as the restaurant association asserted that the payment structuring and financial participation demanded of their industry was in violation of federal law.

It would seem that the judges do not concur. Marc Lifsher of The LA Times reports:

Ruling on a suit brought by a local restaurant association, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that fees charged to employers under the 10-month-old San Francisco Health Care Security Ordinance do not violate federal laws regulating employee benefit programs.

The San Francisco ordinance, which took effect Jan. 9, requires for-profit employers with 20 or more workers to offer health insurance, set aside funds in health reimbursement accounts or pay a fee to the city's Healthy San Francisco program. Nonprofit employers with 50 or more staffers are also covered.
While this news is not greeted with any joy on the part of restaurant owners, supporters of the plan, Healthy San Francisco, see it as proof that through shared responsibility the current health care crisis can be met and vanquished.
"Today's ruling is a huge victory for the city and for the 46 million Americans who don't have health insurance," [San Francisco Mayor Gavin] Newsom said. "San Francisco is proving that it can be done. By thinking outside the box, every city and state in this country can provide health insurance if they are willing to challenge the conventional wisdom."
In the short ten months the plan has been in place, basic medical care has been extended to 30,000 San Francisco residents that lack insurance. A good beginning, but only time will tell the full impact on not only health care but also the local economy and the businesses that make it up. Another process that I would classify as well worth watching.

SOURCE: "Federal court upholds San Francisco healthcare program" 09/30/08
photo courtesy of paraflyer, used under its Creative Commons license

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