San Francisco health accounts growing

Courtesy photoEd Lee

Courtesy photoEd Lee

Mayor Ed Lee quickly signed into law Tuesday legislation that closes a loophole in San Francisco’s landmark universal health care program.

The legislation ensures up to two years’ worth of employers’ contributions in the accounts is available for their workers. Employers must contribute up to $4,252 for a full-time worker each year.

Lee also will issue an executive directive today that orders city departments to educate workers about their health benefits under the program and monitor companies who meet The City’s mandate by offering health care reimbursement accounts.

A political debate began earlier this year when it was discovered that 80 percent of the money going into these accounts, which are used by about 30 percent of businesses covered by the law, was not spent on workers’ medical costs, but instead went back to employers. Last year, that amounted to $50 million.

The legislation was approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors in a 6-5 vote, with supervisors David Campos, John Avalos, Eric Mar, Jane Kim and Ross Mirkarimi opposing it. Campos said the law doesn’t go far enough and has said he would like to bring the issue to voters.

In a letter to department heads, Lee said, “It solves the ‘January 1st’ problem by ensuring that there will always be a minimum of 24 months of [health care reimbursement account] funding available to an employee for health care needs. This is a major change in the ordinance that will make it easier for workers to access health services.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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