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The U.S. Supreme Court allowed San Francisco on Thursday to continue requiring employers to pay part of the cost of providing health care to uninsured residents while a group of restaurant owners tries to overturn the program.

Justice Anthony Kennedy denied a request by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association to suspend the employer contributions while the case awaits an April 17 hearing before an appellate panel.

The city expanded its health care program six weeks ago after winning a ruling from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. That court allowed city officials to require large and medium-size companies to provide insurance to their employees, at spending levels set by the city, or pay a fee to support care for the uninsured at 22 hospitals and clinics.

The expansion lets San Francisco phase in coverage for about 26,000 residents who were not previously eligible for subsidized care. The city says the program will ultimately cover all 73,000 adult residents who are not poor enough for Medi-Cal or old enough for Medicare. About 12,500 people have enrolled so far, program Director Tangerine Brigham said Thursday.

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