Supreme Court Refuses to Stay San Francisco Health Spending Law

By Staff Report

Mar. 31, 2009

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy on Monday, March 30, denied a request from a San Francisco-area restaurant trade association for an emergency order to halt enforcement of San Francisco’s health care spending law.

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association sought the order in the wake of a ruling earlier this month by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals not to review a unanimous 2008 decision by a three-judge appeals court panel upholding the legality of San Francisco law.

In denying the request, Justice Kennedy did not comment.

The outcome of the litigation is important not just to employers in San Francisco, who since January have been told how much they must spend on workers’ health care to avoid fines.

Under the law, large employers must make health care expenditures of $1.85 per hour in 2009 for every eligible employee working at least eight hours a week. Expenditures can include payment of group health insurance premiums, health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangement contributions, or payments to the city.

The case also is being watched by employers nationwide who fear that the San Francisco law, if upheld, would open the floodgates to a wave of new health care spending laws by other cities and states looking for ways to expand coverage.

Benefits experts say a patchwork of such laws would result in higher health care and administrative costs for employers, as well as make it impossible for multistate employers to offer uniform health care benefit plans.

Golden Gate Restaurant Association executive director Kevin Westlye earlier said the group would seek a review of the 9th Circuit ruling by the Supreme Court.

Filed by Jerry Geisel of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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