Shotgun marriage - Page 2

Like it or not, Newsom may need Ammiano's employer mandate to make his health plan work

Ross Mirkarimi over how killing the ordinance would incapacitate Newsom's plan, Nayman suggested "putting both plans on hiatus."
Ammiano said he's running out of patience with Nayman and his downtown allies.
"They didn't lift a finger except to come in at the last minute with a proposal that was neither progressive nor legally viable," he complained, referring to an 11th-hour suggestion that businesses be charged a license fee. The fee would have fallen heavily on businesses with less than 20 employees — which don't have to provide health insurance — and likely would have been challenged as a tax in disguise, thereby triggering a ballot.
Not that the Ammiano camp is afraid of voters. In 2004, 69 percent of San Francisco voted for Proposition 72, which would have provided employer mandated health care had it not narrowly failed statewide. So while Ammiano anticipates resistance from the business community, he isn't expecting a "monolithic rebellion."
"They've been doing their own polling, so they know if [mandatory health care spending] goes to ballot, it'll pass, and they'll only get much more rigid legislation," Ammiano told us.
Ken Jacobs, who Ammiano describes as the brains behind WHSCO and who was also part of the mayor's 37-member Universal Healthcare Council that developed SFHAP, told us WHSCO not only helps workers who don't have health care access but also serves to stop the erosion of employer-sponsored coverage.
Jacobs — who is deputy chair of UC Berkeley's Labor Center — said it's important not to erode the 85 percent of SF-based businesses already providing employee health care benefits. Even Newsom's health director, Mitch Katz, has publicly said that good health insurance is better than the access plan Newsom is touting.
Crediting San Francisco's existing clinic system for making SFHAP conceptually possible, Jacobs noted that its estimated $200 million annual cost is based on "a fully ramped-up program in which every uninsured resident is enrolled" — something he believes won't happen immediately.
Jacobs also points out that if employers who currently don't offer medical benefits sign up for private insurance because of WHSCO's mandate, their employees will no longer be uninsured, thus reducing the public system costs. He also believes that because WHSCO makes large employers spend $274 a month, it's unlikely they'd opt for SFHAP because that plan is limited to care in San Francisco.
Conversely, SFHAP requires participants to be willing to apply for state and federal benefits. They also must pay monthly fees ranging from a nominal $3 for those earning below $19,600 to $35 for those earning between $19,600 and $40,000 to $201 a month for those earning over $50,000.
There's also one more reason why Newsom will likely to be forced to accept the marriage with Ammiano's plan, despite the grumbling from his business community supporters: Eight supervisors have now signed on as WHSCO cosponsors, giving it a veto-proof majority.
Newsom's spokespeople did not return our repeated calls for comment, but Eileen Shields of the Department of Health confirmed that "Ammiano's legislation supports making the SFHAP a reality financially." SFBG