Health Access Plan Receives Final Approval
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously granted final approval to a plan to provide health care access to the city's 82,000 uninsured residents, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. However, some opponents of the measure indicated that legal challenges could follow (Vega, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/26).
The San Francisco Health Access Program is expected to cost about $200 million annually. The city will contribute $104 million that it already spends on medical care for the uninsured. Premiums from plan members are expected to generate $56 million.
Businesses are expected to contribute $28 million through an employer-contribution mandate developed by Supervisor Tom Ammiano. The mandate requires businesses to contribute $1.06 or $1.60 per hour worked per worker depending on how many workers a company employs (Sabatini, San Francisco Examiner, 7/26).
Private businesses with 50 or more employees that currently do not provide health coverage to workers will be required to begin contributing to the health access plan July 1, 2007. Businesses with 20 to 49 workers will be required to begin payments in April 2008. Businesses that provide health insurance will be required to contribute to the plan if their health care spending is less than the mandated amount.
Health officials still must finalize some details of the plan -- such as how to prove city residency, which hospitals will provide emergency treatment to new members and how to develop membership cards that can be used throughout the city's computer system.
City Health Director Mitch Katz said that enrollment forms will be mailed in the spring and that he hopes to enroll 15,000 residents in the first three to four months.
Jim Lazarus, vice president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, criticized the plan as a violation of federal law. Lazarus said that "federal law prohibits local entities from creating benefit mandates" and that there are "going to be legal challenges" in the future (Vega, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/26).
Opponents of the employer contribution mandate say the ordinance will hurt small businesses (San Francisco Examiner, 7/26)