HealthySF heading to top jurist’s desk

A local restaurant association took its fight against additional costs to one of the nation’s highest-ranking jurists.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has until Wednesday to respond to a petition the Golden Gate Restaurant Association filed with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy — who also serves as circuit justice for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — to overrule an emergency stay the appeals court issued in January.

The stay allows a spending requirement for medium and large businesses in The City to go into effect. Employers can either pay into health care plans on their own or pay The City to help it offer care through Healthy San Francisco, its universal health care initiative.

“This is uncharted water for us,” said Kevin Westlye, executive director of the GGRA.

The two sides are awaiting the result of The City’s appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after a Superior Court judge twice ruled in favor of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. The City took the case to the 9th Circuit, which also granted the stay, and oral arguments on the appeal will be heard April 17, said city attorney spokeswoman Alexis Thompson.

Mayor Gavin Newsom called the petition “predictable.”

“We wish them luck, but we hope they lose,” Newsom said. With the employer mandate currently in effect, restaurants have begun either swallowing the costs, increasing food prices or placing a surcharge on customers’ bills. Some have also offered explanations about why the cost has increased or why the surcharge is there.

Judy Rodgers, who owns the popular Zuni Café on Market Street, applauded The City’s effort to further universal health care. Zuni’s menus have a note on them explaining the 4 percent fee on the bill goes toward additional health care for employees, Rodgers said.

“[It’s] just so people wouldn’t be confused about what the charge is,” Rodgers said. “If you just make a price increase, people think it’s just getting more expensive.”

The City’s HealthySF program and its $196 million pricetag is predominantly funded by existing Health Department resources, but The City expects to receive $28 million a year from businesses not providing health care to employees, and roughly $56 million raised through monthly fees.

During the winter, The City expanded the program making workers earning within 300 percent of the federal poverty level eligible for its program. First payments to The City from businesses are due the first week of April.

dsmith@examiner.com

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