San Francisco Considers Proposal To Require Businesses To Provide Health Benefits
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Wednesday discussed a proposal for an ordinance to require businesses in San Francisco to provide health insurance to employees, the San Francisco Chronicle. The ordinance would be based upon SB 2, which was repealed under Proposition 72 in the November 2004 election, according to Supervisor Tom Ammiano.
The proposal has not been formalized and some details remain unspecified, including:
- Which firms would be affected;
- How many hours employees would have to work to be eligible for coverage under the plan;
- What level of health benefits the ordinance would mandate; and
- Whether workers would pay copayments, and if so, how much.
Ammiano said, "It's a cold, cruel world out there, and we're looking for answers," adding, "This in fact could be an answer on the way to the laudable goal of universal health care."
Jean Fraser, CEO of San Francisco Health Plan, said the proposal could reduce costs for the public health system and "leve[l] the playing field" between businesses that currently offer employees health care benefits and those that do not. However, Fraser said enforcing the proposal could be difficult, adding that it could be challenged in court and could make San Francisco a less-competitive market for businesses.
Lee Blitch, president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, said that the issue of the uninsured needs to be addressed but that Ammiano's proposal could negatively affect San Francisco firms. He said, "This idea is not targeted toward our large companies here. They already provide insurance. We'd really be going after the medium and small ones."
Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) said, "While I support the idea on a state level, implementing it locally -- though well-intended and worth taking a look at -- has some obvious potential pitfalls: It could create a construct where the city becomes uncompetitive in the context of other municipalities." He added, "There are some real consequences" (Gordon, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/21).