Board expected to pass health care ordinance

Proponents of a controversial health care mandate — which provides every San Francisco resident with either employer-provided or city-provided health care — celebrated an assumed victory Monday since the Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the ordinance today.

The ordinance, which received a positive recommendation from the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee on Monday, combines a plan to provide health care to The City’s 82,000 uninsured. Touted by Mayor Gavin Newsom, with a less popular funding mandate authored by Supervisor Tom Ammiano, the proposal requires businesses with 20 employees or more to invest $1.06 to $1.60 for each employee hour worked for health care. After the committee vote, applause broke out in the supervisors’ chamber, with several of Ammiano’s board colleagues joining for a standing ovation.

Estimated to cost nearly $200 million, the groundbreaking San Francisco Health Access Plan provides uninsured San Franciscans with health care within city limits — including a primary care doctor, hospital services and prescription drugs. It was created on an assumption that The City would redirect $104 million already used for medical care of the uninsured to pay for the plan, and another $56 million would come from sliding scale premiums paid for by participants. Through Ammiano’s legislation, San Francisco’s employers are expected to fill $28 million or more of the remaining financial gap.

Although at least eight supervisors have indicated they would vote for the health care mandate — which would make it veto-proof — Newsom also gave his approval to the measure last week, after an additional amendment to the ordinance that provided more time for businesses to prepare for the added expense and a narrower focus on which employees would be covered.

Business leaders have said the required health care spending will create a hardship on employers, particularly small businesses.

“It’s a prescription for poor health for businesses and job loss,” said the Union Square Association’s Linda Mjellem.

beslinger@examiner.com

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