When judges attack…

A marauding tiger may not be only bad thing to come out of San Francisco this week.

This evening, a Judge Jeffrey White ruled with the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and against San Francisco and a key part of the ordinance that created the Healthy San Francisco program. Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle coverage.

We’ve outlined in previous posts about the line of reasoning about how health reforms might withstand an ERISA challenge. The question of that federal law’s impact on state and local health reforms has split judges–such as the appeals court in Maryland–and it’s unfortunate that this particular judge sided against San Francisco’s important health reforms.

Both sides were prepared to appeal to the Ninth Circuit, and the city is expected to file their appeal on Thursday. The city should appeal: San Francisco has a strong case to make on behalf of its residents, to improve their health care system while giving employers different options to meet their obligations.

Some will over-read this decision, both its implications for health reform in San Francisco and California: This is far from the final word on health reform; it’s actually just the first round.

First, there will be an appeal in this case. As for state reforms like AB x1 1 (or SB840, etc.), they have different structures than the ordinance in San Francisco, which had a different framework than previous efforts in other states and counties. A ruling about one does not necessarily impact the other.

The proposed health reform in the California legislature would continue to allow multi-state employers to have a national benefits package for their workers, which is the focus of federal ERISA law. Like other state reforms, it needs to be vetted by the courts, but with its specific language and specificity.

San Francisco should and must appeal; The efforts of California and other states must continue; What’s the alternative? Health reform is too important and too urgent to wait for the federal government.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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