Court delays decision on S.F. health plan funding

A federal appeals court panel heard arguments in Pasadena on Thursday morning on a disputed funding measure in San Francisco’s pioneering health care program but made no immediate decision, according to city attorneys.

City attorney’s office spokesman Matt Dorsey said three judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took the case under submission after the arguments and did not say when they will rule.

But Dorsey said, “We expect they will act promptly today or tomorrow.”

The dispute is about a provision that would require employers to contribute financially to San Francisco’s universal health care program for its 73,000 uninsured residents.

The spending mandate had been scheduled to go into effect Wednesday. It was overturned last month by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, acting in a lawsuit filed by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera last week asked the 9th Circuit to grant an emergency stay reinstating the spending mandate until the court acts on the city’s full appeal. Thursday’s hearing was on the bid for a stay.

The spending mandate would require employers with 20 or more workers to pay a set amount per employee either by financing their own health plan or by making payments to the city’s plan.

The requirement would have provided a portion of money for the program, but the majority of the financing is supplied by city, state and federal funds.

City officials have said that without the employer contribution, they will be able to expand the program to only about two-thirds of the city’s uninsured residents, or 47,000 people, within two years, leaving another 26,000 without coverage.

White struck down the mandate on the ground that it conflicts with a federal law regulating employee benefit plans.

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