Legal foes invited to weigh in on healthcare policy

Pub date September 17, 2013
WriterRebecca Bowe

A few years ago, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association lost a legal battle it waged over the employer mandates in the city’s landmark Health Care Security Ordinance, a universal healthcare program that has provided safety-net services for the city’s uninsured since its passage in 2006, partially through the Healthy San Francisco program.

Composed of San Francisco restaurant owners, GGRA took issue with a mandatory employer spending contribution designed to help employees cover healthcare costs. While the city’s flagship healthcare program ultimately emerged unscathed, the lawsuit went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and consumed city staff time and legal expenses.

Now that the federal Affordable Care Act is poised to begin, with enrollment in low-income programs starting in October, a new debate has surfaced over whether current employer requirements should stay the same under Obamacare. While ardent supporters of HCSO have urged the city not to make any drastic policy changes because the existing system can help low-wage workers take advantage of federally subsidized healthcare options, local business interests have signaled that they think it’s time to scale back employer contributions.

In late August, representatives from the city’s Department of Public Health sent out invitations to various stakeholders to join an advisory body called the Universal Healthcare Council, which will be charged with “reviewing local policies against the backdrop of the federal law.” Despite the failed, messy legal battle that nearly undermined Healthy SF just a few years ago, and the more recent scandals involving restaurants fraudulently using customer surcharges and still stiffing employees (see “Check please,” April 23), an invitation was sent to Rob Black, executive director of GGRA. For the sake of uninsured employees throughout San Francisco, let’s hope the restaurant association doesn’t have another lawsuit up its sleeve.