Bush Administration Backs Restaurants’ Opposition to S.F. Plan
The Bush Administration has joined restaurant owners in their opposition to San Francisco's universal health access program because of a provision of the law that requires employers to spend a minimum amount on health care, in coverage for their workers, reimbursements of medical expenses or payments to the city, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
The administration and restaurant owners contend that the program, called Healthy San Francisco, violates a federal law addressing regulation of health care benefits. Employers also argue that the fees are burdensome and impede growth.
The program, which has enrolled 19,000 residents in 10 months, assigns patients whose incomes exceed Medi-Cal eligibility guidelines to primary care clinics for preventive services. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
The program currently allows residents with incomes that do not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level to enroll. The program eventually will be extended to everyone, although those with incomes that exceed 500% of the poverty level will be required to pay the full cost of the program.
Businesses that have between 20 and 99 employees must spend at least $1.17 per hour per employee, while businesses with more than 100 workers must spend $1.76 per hour per employee on health care, or else pay the city fees equal to those amounts.
About $12 million of the program's $200 million in annual costs comes from employers. San Francisco also has received a federal grant that provides $24 million annually for three years (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/25).