Healthcare victory for San Francisco

January 9, 2008 7:15:12 PM PST
A federal appeals panel says the city of San Francisco may move forward with its program to provide health care to the uninsured. Nearly 8,000 people have enrolled in San Francisco's universal health care program.

At his swearing in ceremony yesterday, Mayor Newsom pledged to expand that care to another 40,000 San Franciscans this year.

The program is counting on more than $100-million dollars in city money, co-pays from patients, and fees from employers with 20 or more workers.

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association sued on behalf of city businesses.. They argued the city ordinance, the first of its kind in the nation, violates federal law. Last month, a federal judge agreed. Today a three judge federal appeals panel unanimously ruled otherwise, saying the city's actions are legal and that it's clear "avoidable human suffering, illness, and possibly death will result" if the court did not act.

City attorney Dennis Herrera says companies must now start paying up.

"Employers have one of two ways to comply with the ordinance, either through their own healthcare plan which they have, or to pay the city."

The new president of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association believes the city requirements will have a devastating affect on him and his industry.

"It means I'll lay off four people and raise prices and that's what everybody will do"

He's not sure if they will appeal this ruling.

At a campaign event this afternoon, Mayor Gavin Newsom noted that today's action is just a temporary stay.

"The real question is in the court and who pays for it is a burden shared by all San Franciscans, including employers."

The panel of judges said it believes the city will likely win its case. That outcome would affect not only San Francisco, but the state, because Governor Schwarzenegger is backing a state-wide healthcare measure, similar to San Francisco's.