Washington Republicans say they're shocked -- shocked! -- that San Francisco restaurants obtained healthcare reform waivers handed out last month by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. They've even spun a conspiracy theory that says Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi was behind a supposed backroom deal.
But Capitol Hill right-wingers apparently don't know much about San Francisco restaurateurs, or the Golden Gate Restaurant Association lobbying group that has spent a decade attempting to get around any law relating to the health of employees, or to public health. They're among America's most rabid opponents of healthcare mandates. Nobody should be surprised they'd figure out a way to postpone having to comply with Obamacare.
In April, the Department of Health and Human Services approved 204 new waivers, of which 38 recipients were in San
Francisco. But San Francisco doesn't make up 20 percent of America. Right-wing geniuses such as Sarah Palin checked the math.
"Seriously, this is corrupt. And anyone who still supports the Pelosi-Reid-Obama agenda of centralized government takeovers of the free market and the corresponding crony capitalism is, in my book, complicit," she told the Daily Caller, a conservative Web site.
But Pelosi actually had nothing to do with the waivers, which are aimed at businesses who would have to pass health care mandates' costs on to customers. A consultant applied for them on behalf of dozens of businesses and Washington bureaucrats approved most applications, irrespective of the restaurants' location. San Francisco dining establishments just happened to have filled out a disproportionate number of applications.
The funny thing is, the GGRA is an old hand at fighting healthcare mandates. And you'd think that Republicans would have cheered them on, not made up a wacky conspiracy theory about their success.
In 2005, the GGRA lobbied intensely to block San Francisco's Healthcare Security Ordinance, which included an employer mandate for healthcare. Having lost that battle, for five years the group mounted a legal challenge and finally lost at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last year. In 2006, the year after our local healthcare security ordinance passed, the group lobbied to dilute a 2006 San Francisco sick pay ballot measure.
San Francisco restaurateurs aren't merely experts at trying to evade or defeat measures designed to protect employees' health. They're good at battling public health measures as well. In 2007, GGRA lobbyists succeeded at watering down Bay Area Air Quality Management District rules governing emissions of grill smoke. The group fought to prevent restaurants from having to enforce a smoking ban on sidewalks in front of restaurants. And they succeeded in weakening nutrition labeling legislation that took effect this year.
Now that San Francisco restaurateurs have become national champions at weaseling out of national healthcare reform requirements, you'd think Washington Republicans would pour them scotches and slap their backs. Instead, Palin and her ilk have cooked up a wild theory saying local steakhouses had climbed in bed with Pelosi to obtain waivers when all they did was fill out a form.
Update 5/18: GGRA executive director Rob Black informs us that the "Golden Gate Restaurant Association has not advised its members about waivers under the federal healthcare reform."
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