Businesses will be asked if universal health care is fair 

In an attempt to gauge the willingness of local business owners to support the county’s universal health care coverage goal, researchers this week began gathering information through telephone surveys.

EMC Research will conduct 250 interviews with business representatives of all sizes and in all sectors over the next eight days, San Mateo County Health Department spokesperson Beverly Thames said. Each survey will last about 15 minutes.

Researchers will inquire of business owners whether they are aware of the San Mateo County Blue Ribbon Task Force on Adult Health Care Coverage, which has recommended that the county provide comprehensive health care access to its working-poor residents, as well as share the financial responsibility with businesses, citizens, hospitals and insurance providers.

Business owners will be asked whether they have a preferred method of contributing to the plan, and whether they think participation should be mandatory or voluntary, Thames said.

They will also be asked whether a minimum health-coverage standard for all employees is fair and whether some businesses should be exempt.

Researchers will also record business owners’ thoughts about being required to either offer insurance to their workers or pay into a county fund that would support universal coverage. The survey additionally explores the possibility of an annual business health fee in addition to a business license fee, a payroll tax and a one-half-cent sales tax.

Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, who chaired the blue-ribbon task force with Supervisor Jerry Hill, said the county may follow up with focus groups of business owners. Hill called securing the support of the business community "crucial" to realizing the county’s dream of affordable coverage for all.

"We really need to find out what their concerns are and at what level we can see their participation," he said.

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