Restaurant group opposes S.F. bid to reinstate health plan

A restaurant owners’ group urged a federal appeals court Monday to reject the city of San Francisco’s emergency appeal for reinstatement of a key element of its pioneering health plan.

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association said in a brief submitted to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday morning that it would be “contrary to the public interest” to grant the emergency appeal.

The city has asked the appeals court to stay a ruling in which a federal trial judge last week struck down a mandate that employers must contribute financially to the city’s universal health care plan.

The employer spending mandate had been scheduled to go into effect Wednesday.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera in an appeal filed Thursday said that “critically necessary health care services” for tens of thousands of uninsured San Franciscans were at stake.

Deputy City Attorney Vince Chhabria said that three appeals court judges are expected to consider the appeal Monday afternoon.

If the court does not grant the emergency stay, the city could still proceed with a normal appeal, with a hearing on the case as soon as May or June.

The city’s program, enacted last year, is intended to provide health care for the estimated 73,000 uninsured residents. It would be paid for with a combination of city and employer spending.

The employer mandate would require businesses with 20 or more workers to contribute either by financing their own health plan or by paying a set amount per worker to a city fund.

The city has already implemented the plan for about 7,400 people with the use of government funding and is due to begin expanding the plan Wednesday.

City health officials have said that if the employer spending is not reinstated, the expansion will be limited to people with incomes of no more than three times the federal poverty level, or about 47,000 people within two years.

The restaurant group argued in its brief Monday that an immediate stay would “create a patchwork of local regulation and impose serious ongoing administrative and financial hardships for employers.”

The businesses contended that instead of creating a possible “on-again, off-again” situation, it would be better to leave the lower court ruling in place until the appeals court rules on the full appeal in five or six months.

— Bay City News

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