Proposed Employer Insurance Mandate Top Issue in San Francisco in 2006
A proposal that would require San Francisco businesses with 20 or more employees to provide health benefits to workers likely will be "the front-burner issue" in 2006, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Gordon, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/6).
Under the proposal, introduced by Supervisor Tom Ammiano, San Francisco businesses that currently do not offer health care coverage would be required to establish health savings accounts and pay into them $345 monthly per employee. Businesses also could choose to reimburse workers directly for medical expenses (California Healthline, 12/22/05).
Ammiano has said the measure has support from six members of the Board of Supervisors, enough to pass the legislation (Lelchuk, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/5).
Although Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) has not said he will veto the measure if it is approved by the board, "reading between the lines certainly suggests as much," according to the Chronicle.
Ammiano said the measure could be placed on the San Francisco ballot if Newsom vetoes the measure, and the Chronicle reports that voters might support the proposal (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/6). San Francisco voters in November 2004 "gave overwhelming support" to an effort to retain a state law (SB 2) that would have required some employers to provide health care insurance to employees or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage, according to the Chronicle. However, SB 2 was repealed.
However, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is organizing opposition to the proposal, saying that it would negatively affect the economy (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/5).
Other issues that likely will be addressed this year in San Francisco include enforcement of new medical marijuana dispensary regulations and whether to rebuild Laguna Honda Hospital and San Francisco General Hospital (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/6).
In an interview this week with the San Francisco Examiner, Newsom discussed accomplishments and failures of his first two years in office and plans for the second half of his administration, including some health-related issues.
According to Newsom, one of his "biggest concern[s] ... is that we have to reconcile the structural issues we have in the health department." Such issues include long-term care because the city faces "a disproportionate number of aging people compared to the rest of the state" and the seismic retrofit of SFGH, Newsom said (Jouvenal, San Francisco Examiner, 1/5).