Healthy SF fees set to increase 

Amid a sickly economy, the fees businesses pay for San Francisco’s universal health care program are set to increase.

Under The City’s Health Care Security Ordinance, which was passed in 2008, businesses must provide health insurance and spend an allocated amount per employee. Businesses that do not pay the allocated amount per employee must pay the difference to The City. If they do not provide insurance, they are required to pay into the system that provides health care for uninsured workers through the Healthy San Francisco program or pay the allocated amount per employee into a health care savings account.

The new rates, which will go into effect in 2011, will increase from $1.31 to $1.37 per hour per employee for businesses with 20 to 99 employees. For businesses with 100 or more employees, the rates will increase from $1.96 to $2.06.

The fee hike requires businesses  with more than 100 workers to pay $354.32 a month per employee. The increase amounts to roughly an additional $1,720 a month for a business with 100 employees.

Businesses with fewer than 20 employees and nonprofits with fewer than 50 employees are not covered by the law, according to the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement.

Donna Levitt, manager with the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, said that under the law, the rates are tied to the cost of providing health care.

Business leaders said they already are burdened with declining revenue, increasing costs and government mandates, including paid sick leave and minimum wage, said Jim Lazarus, senior vice president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

Between 2005 and 2009, the cost to hire a full-time, minimum-wage worker increased by 40 percent for businesses with more than 20 employees, Lazarus said. This is directly tied to the increasing minimum-wage rate and the health care mandate, he said.

“It makes a tough situation even tougher,” Lazarus said.

Tony Winnicker, spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom, said that’s exactly why the mayor this year proposed a $2,000 tax credit for those businesses that are participating in Healthy San Francisco. The proposal was killed at the committee level of the Board of Supervisors.


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