The highest court in the land, as represented by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, has rejected an attempt by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association to overturn mandatory compliance with SF’s Healthy San Francisco Program on the part of the city’s businesses that employ at least 20 people.
The program, which requires employers either offer health care coverage to employees or contribute a portion of their wages to the program’s budget (~ $200 million), is claimed by the GGRA to place an illegal and costly burden on its members. Though the program was not found by the court to be in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, this will likely not satiate the business group, which rejected an earlier compromise by the city to modify the program’s conditions to address their complaints.
Democratic assemblyman Tom Ammiano, architect of the program, had this to say in a statement released in response to the court’s action: “Today’s Supreme Court decision is an affirmation of San Francisco’s landmark efforts to provide affordable health care to the uninsured. With over 50,000 people receiving health care services and prescription drugs, Healthy San Francisco is a national model for what can be accomplished when the public and private sector work in partnership towards a common goal.” Ammiano’s Communication Director Quintin Mecke reports that over two thirds of San Francisco’s eligible, uninsured adults are currently enjoying the program’s benefits.
Mayor Newsom also chimed in via statement, saying that “The High Court’s decision today ensures we can continue providing health care coverage to thousands who would otherwise go without care.”
The program currently enrolls somewhere between 41,000 and 53,000 (Ammiano’s communication director states that around 41,000 are enrolled, AP says 53,000) people who formerly lacked health care due to either financial issues or an inability to qualify for existing state and federal medical programs.
According to Newsom, the recently passed national health care legislation will not make the Healthy San Francisco Program superfluous because the latter, for example, even extends coverage to illegal immigrants, something the former does not.
Financial and legal issues aside, the program garnered a 94% satisfaction rate by users in a 2009 Kaiser Family Foundation survey.