Businesses given extension to meet health care rules 

Large businesses on Tuesday were granted a six-month extension to comply with spending requirements for worker health care as part of The City’s groundbreaking program to provide health care access for San Francisco’s estimated 82,000 uninsured adults.

The City is expected to implement the so-called Healthcare Security Ordinance on July 1 when it launches the new Health Access Program. The ordinance was authored by Supervisor Tom Ammiano and Mayor Gavin Newsom.

When the ordinance was approved last year, large businesses were going to have to comply with the ordinance’s minimum spending requirements for worker health care beginning July 1.

Employers can satisfy the health care expenditure by using a private insurance carrier, setting up health care reimbursement accounts, or the employer could directly pay The City the money if their workers join The City’s Health Access Program.

Ammiano drafted an amendment postponing the spending requirements until January 2008 based on feedback from the business community coupled with the fact that The City’s HAP would not be ready to serve employees until that time.

The Board of Supervisors approved the six-month extension in an 8-3 vote.

The program will still begin on July 1, but providing health services for only The City’s most vulnerable adults.

Now, beginning January 2008, employers with more than 100 employees will have to spend $1.76 per hour worked, per employee, and those with between 50 and 99 employees will be required to pay $1.17 per employee, per hour worked for worker health care.

Employers largely criticized The City’s health care ordinance for creating another financial burden, which they said makes it even more difficult to do business in San Francisco.

The City continues to move forward with the Health Access Program, despite a lawsuit that challenges the legality of the employer-spending mandate filed by the San Francisco Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

Supervisors Gerardo Sandoval, Chris Daly and Ed Jew voted against the postponement. Both Daly and Sandoval said they wanted the program to stay on course.

Ammiano said that despite the postponement of the employer spending requirements implementation has been "smooth sailing."

Jew said he voted against the postponement because he opposes the spending requirement of businesses altogether.

The amendment also authorizes The City’s Public Health Department to manage health care reimbursement accounts for employees who are nonresidents, making it easier for employers who wish to join HAP.

HAP health services themselves would remain available to only San Francisco residents.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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