Debate Continues on Employer Contribution Mandate
San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano on Monday said he would consider a suggestion by the city Controller's Office to amend a proposed ordinance to gradually increase employers' required contributions to workers' health care programs, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Under Ammiano's plan, businesses with 20 to 99 workers would pay $1.06 per hour worked per employee and businesses with 100 or more workers would pay $1.60 per hour worked per employee for employee health care (Vega, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/27). Businesses would pay a prorated amount for part-time employees, and businesses with fewer than 20 workers would be exempt (Eslinger, San Francisco Examiner, 6/27).
Ammiano said that mandated employer contributions are necessary for Mayor Gavin Newsom's (D) universal health care access plan to work because "[b]usinesses are not going to volunteer (to pay)."
Newsom's plan would expand health care access to the city's 82,000 uninsured residents at cost of about $200 million annually. According to the plan, the city would contribute $104 million, businesses would voluntarily contribute $38 million and the remainder would come from member premiums and other sources.
Newsom has said he does not support Ammiano's proposal in its current form but acknowledged that a mandate for employer contributions would be necessary for his plan to work.
A Controller's Office report released on Friday found that Ammiano's plan would affect small businesses the most and could lead to the loss of jobs or increased prices for consumers. The report also found that expanding health care access could create between 150 and 240 health care jobs. The report concluded that the projected job loss is "relatively small" compared with the overall job growth in San Francisco (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/27).
San Francisco Public Health Director Mitch Katz said the city would enroll participants in Newsom's plan in stages as the infrastructure for the program is developed. According to Katz, the city could afford to delay requiring payments from small businesses while waiting to enroll their employees (San Francisco Examiner, 6/27).
Ammiano said he would consider phasing in the cost of the ordinance so businesses are not faced with large expenses at the onset.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee postponed voting on the issue and will hold another hearing next week. At a hearing on Monday, some employers said the mandate would force them out of business, while uninsured residents discussed living without access to health care (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/27).