SAN FRANCISCO: Mayor Moves To Place Universal Insurance Plan On November Ballot
San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown (D) announced Tuesday "he is preparing a non-binding policy statement for the November ballot that would ask voters to back" his health insurance plan. Brown unveiled a plan in May that would provide coverage to about 130,000 uninsured San Franciscans by "pooling money for city employee and retiree medical coverage with federal and state health care funds" ( see CHL 5/20). Small businesses would then be invited to join this pool. The San Francisco Examiner reports that Brown is putting the measure on the ballot "to get city voters behind his pioneering plan." The move comes less than a month after Brown took his plan for universal health coverage "off the fast track" and said he "would not ask voters to amend the City Charter to allow the plan." Steve Kawa, a special assistant to the mayor, said, "The mayor is going directly to the people to explain his vision."
The Examiner reports that Brown's health care plan faces opposition within the city. The city government retirees association opposes the measure due to fear that "health benefits earned through years of work will be eroded by extending coverage to the uninsured." And the Service Employees International Union Local 250, traditionally one of Brown's strongest backers, remain wary of the plan because union leaders "worry the universal health care program could deplete money" from San Francisco General Hospital and other public health clinics where a large number of union members work. Local 250 head Sal Roselli said, "We need to be absolutely sure the safety net is going to be maintained" before SEIU supports Brown's proposal. To place the measure on the November ballot, the Examiner notes that Brown needs the votes of four members of the city's Board of Supervisors by August 5 (Finnie, 7/30).