Compromise Reached on San Francisco Health Access Plan
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) and Supervisor Tom Ammiano on Tuesday announced a compromise on legislation that would require some city businesses to help fund Newsom's proposed universal health care access program, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Newsom's plan would offer health care coverage to an estimated 85,000 uninsured residents at a cost of about $200 million annually. According to the plan, the city would contribute $104 million currently allocated to treat the uninsured, and member premiums and other sources would provide about $56 million (Goodyear, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/12). Under the compromise, employers would contribute about $28 million through a mandate Ammiano proposed (Eslinger, San Francisco Examiner, 7/12).
Ammiano's legislation would require businesses to contribute $1.06 or $1.60 per hour worked per employee, depending on the company's size, toward worker health care. Companies that provide health coverage but spend less than the minimum level would be required to contribute.
An amendment to Ammiano's legislation that was introduced on Tuesday would increase the number of hours employees would have to work to qualify for the program from two to 12 per week.
Businesses would be allowed to delay making contributions until July 1, 2007, under the amended legislation. After that date, companies with 50 workers or more would be required to begin making payments, while companies with between 20 and 49 workers would begin making payments by April 2008.
The legislation would cap the maximum amount larger businesses must contribute to employee health care at $180 per worker per month. In addition, cost increases during the first three years of the plan would be limited to an annual rate of 5% to allow companies to adjust to the plan.
The city controller would be required to report quarterly on the financial impact of the mandate (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/12).
The legislation is scheduled to have its final committee hearing on Monday, and it will then go before the full Board of Supervisors. The Examiner reports that "[e]ight supervisors have indicated that they would" vote to approve the measure, making it veto-proof (San Francisco Examiner, 7/12).
A "minimum health care spending requirement" for medium and large businesses "is absolutely necessary to slow the erosion of employer-sponsored coverage, protect the public health care system from being flooded and level the playing field for employers who are doing the right thing," Glen Rosselli, former undersecretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, writes in a Chronicle opinion piece. Rosselli adds that Ammiano's legislation "is sound public policy that will ultimately provide universal health care for San Franciscans and create a model for the nation" (Rosselli, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.