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Health Care Employer Mandate Approved by Appeals Court in Landmark Decision

Health Care Employer Mandate Approved by Appeals Court in Landmark Decision

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

http://www.progressivestates.org/dispatch

Valuing-Families

BY Nathan Newman

Health Care Employer Mandate Approved by Appeals Court in Landmark Decision

Last week, we reported that a local district judge had blocked part of San Francisco's universal health care plan requiring employers with 20 or more employees to either provide health care or contribute $1.17 to $1.76 per hour (depending on the size of the firm) to a city fund for health care for their employees. The judge has argued that the requirement violated the federal ERISA law covering employer health plans.

However, in a landmark unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district judge's decision and allowed the San Francisco employer health care mandate to go into effect. While the Appeals Court decision is only a preliminary one, it contained an extensive discussion of the ERISA issue that argued that in any later full decision, the court would have a "strong likelihood" of finding that any employer mandate as contained in San Francisco's law would be fully legal under ERISA.

And as the Court emphasized, such an employer health care mandate is congruent with the public interest concerns motivating laws such as ERISA:

[T]he general public has an interest in the health of San Francisco residents and workers, particularly those workers who handle their food and work in other service industries...Because the Ordinance will likely increase the use of more cost-effective preventive care, as compared with more expensive emergency care, overall health care expenses may decrease.

While not the final legal word on the issue, this decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which governs law for much of the Western United States, should give confidence to policymakers that including requirements that employers share in the financial responsibility for funding the costs of universal health care will be ultimately upheld by the courts. 

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Increasing-Democracy

BY J. Mijin Cha

New Hampshire: Election Day Registration Helps Set Record Voter Turnout

The New Hampshire primary voter turnout set a new record with over 500,000 residents participating in the Republication and Democratic primaries. While candidates worked hard to get voters turned out, residents of New Hampshire have an added advantage: New Hampshire is one of a select number of states that allow voters to register and vote on election day. Voter registration does close 10 days before the election, but voters that miss the deadline can register and vote on election day.  

In Ward 6, by 8 a.m., 602 people had voted and 70 new voters were registered, more than 10% of the voters. Ward 11, by 7:45, had 255 votes and 22 new registered voters. In Manchester, city election workers handling same-day registration "rarely got a breather."  Considering that the margin between the top two Democratic candidates was 3%, having a system that allows people to register and vote on election day can make a significant difference. As we've highlighted, election day registration results in higher voter turnout and encourages young people and those who are historically disenfranchised to vote.

Already the right-wing propaganda machine was at work, throwing in cries of the mythical voter fraud by pointing to a district that had 16 registered voters but 17 votes. In fact, the district did have 16 registered voters and on election day, then registered a resident that had moved away and returned too late for the pre-registration voter deadline-- the perfect example of why election day registration is necessary and how right-wing voter fraud charges are based on ignorance and propaganda.

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Increasing-Democracy

BY J. Mijin Cha

Colorado May Move to Vote by Mail Due to Faulty Electronic Voting Machines

After a court-mandated retesting of electronic voting equipment, Colorado's Republican Secretary of State Mike Coffman decided to decertify electronic voting machines in the state due to security and accuracy problems. The testing found that the system had a one percent error rate when counting ballots, i.e. for every 100 ballots tested, there was an error with one of the ballots. In the 2006 election, 2,533,919 votes were cast and, according to the testing, 25,339 ballots would have had an error.   

Legislative leaders in the state have proposed that Colorado become the second state, after Oregon, to exclusively use mail-in voting. In fact, House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D-Denver) said his preference is for mail-only balloting as a permanent solution. Currently, mail-in voting in Colorado has been available since 1992 and about 30% of the statewide votes in the last few elections have come in by mail. 

Oregon's Secretary of State, Bill Bradbury, pointed out that elections in Oregon have record turnout with none of the problems that other states face. Oregon voters can mail in their ballots or drop them off any several official sites located throughout the state. In addition to increasing the number of participants, the cost of vote by mail elections in Oregon is 30% less than polling place elections.

The Ohio Secretary of State has also found that her state's voting machines were unstable and had serious security concerns. While not requiring complete mandatory mail in voting, the Secretary did recommend a permanent, no-excuse absentee provision that would allow voters to vote by absentee ballot without having an excuse. Four states currently allow permanent no-excuse absentee voting with an additional 24 states allowing non-permanent no-excuse absentee voting.

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Eye on the Right

The US Chamber of Commerce apparently wants to have it both ways-- blocking any national solution to the health care crisis while tying the hands of state governments to solve the problem as well. 

The Chamber recently announced its health care agenda for 2008. While it touts "providing health care and retirement security for every American", the Chamber promotes health savings accounts and consumer-driven health care, all favorites of the Right's anti-family health care agenda, but also rails against a Washington solution to the health care crisis.  At the same time, however, the Chamber wants to preserve "the ERISA preemption" of state health care laws, standards often cited to beat back state laws regulating health care benefits and requiring employers to pay their fair share of employee health care costs. As the decision upholding the San Francisco employer responsibility measure under ERISA shows, the Chamber is likely to lose that legal shield, but their hypocrisy in opposing federal solutions while depending on federal law to block state reforms reflects their opportunistic hypocrisy on the health care issue.


Got a lead for Eye on the Right? Sent it to eyeontheright@progressivestates.org.

Resources

Health Care Employer Mandate Approved by Appeals Court in Landmark Decision

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals - Golden Gate Restaurant Association v. City and County of San Francisco

Healthy San Francisco - Our Health Access Program

Progressive States Network - Ensuring Affordability of Employer Mandates

Progressive States Network - San Francisco's Landmark Law

AFL-CIO - Fair Share Health Care

UC-Berkeley Labor Center - Declining Job-Based Health Coverage for Working Families in California and the United States

New Hampshire: Election Day Registration Helps Set Record Voter Turnout

Progressive States Network - Election Day Registration

Electiononline.org - Election-Day Registration: A Case Study

Demos - Election Day Registration: A Study of Voter Fraud Allegations and Findings on Voter Roll Security

Colorado May Move to Vote by Mail Due to Faulty Electronic Voting Machines

Vote By Mail Project

Bill Bradbury - Vote by Mail: The Real Winner is Democracy

FairVote Colorado - Election 2006, Findings and Recommendations

Masthead

The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
J. Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Communications Associate

Please shoot us an email at dispatch@progressivestates.org if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

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