S.F. won’t wait for California to lead the way

Although a state plan to bring health care coverage for California’s uninsured is in the works, San Francisco is moving forward with its universal health plan, said Dr. Mitch Katz, the head of The City’s Health Department.

“My guess is that in the most wonderful scenario, they won’t achieve universal health coverage,” Katz told The Examiner. “I expect at the end of the day, there will still be a role for Healthy San Francisco.”

One of the sticking points between state legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is how much businesses would be required to contribute to help fund health care for the state’s poor and uninsured.

San Francisco’s new health plan is facing a court challenge over its requirement that all city businesses with 20 workers or more make financial investments for each employee’s health care. The Golden Gate Restaurant Association has sued, saying the mandate runs afoul of federal law.

A judge is expected to rule by November on Healthy San Francisco, but city officials say the $200 million universal program will continue with or without the anticipated $28 million business contribution.

Katz said the spending requirement — $1.17 to $1.85 toward health care for each employee hour worked — is not so much about the money as it is making sure that businesses have no incentive to dump their employees into The City’s program.

If the business mandate is determined illegal and The City begins to see the ranks of uninsured grow, San Francisco might limit the program to only low-income residents, Katz said. If that happens, it is possible that The City’s working poor would once again be left without health coverage.

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