A federal judge has overturned a portion of San Franciscos universal healthcare program that requires employers to provide benefits to their workers or pay a fee, which was set to begin Jan. 2.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White sided with the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, which brought the legal challenge to the employer mandate. White ruled the mandate violated the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which bars states and municipalities from regulating some employer-provided health insurance. Similar statutes in Maryland and Suffolk County, N.Y., have also been overturned on this basis.
The $200 million program, called Healthy San Francisco, launched at city clinics on a limited basis in July and aims to provide the citys 82,000 uninsured residents with affordable access to local health services. The city has maintained that the employer mandate is necessary to fund the program adequately.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera is petitioning the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency stay to allow the employer mandate to move forward next week. "Without this stay, tens of thousands of San Francisco residents and workers will be deprived of critically necessary healthcare servicesand will suffer the health-related and financial consequencesduring the pendency of this appeal," Herrera said in a written statement. -- by Rebecca Vesely