Ammiano’s health care plan is fair

Pub date July 11, 2006
SectionNews & OpinionSectionOpinion

OPINION Universal health care. These days, most people want it, but no one wants to pay for it.
But like it or not, we all share in the expense of providing health care. We pay for it directly in our health care premiums or indirectly from higher costs for goods, services, and taxes. According to the activist group Health Care for All, “We spend over $6,000 per person in the US — two to three times the amount spent in other countries that insure everyone and have better health outcomes.” Our health care system, if you can call it that, is currently based on a corporate, for-profit model that increasingly leaves large numbers of people uninsured — and they must rely on taxpayer-subsidized public health programs.
Mayor Gavin Newsom is pushing for universal health care in San Francisco, and there are three ways on the table to fund it.
The Committee on Jobs, Chamber of Commerce, and Golden Gate Restaurant Association champion a plan in which all businesses pay a set fee, whether or not they are providing health care for their employees. Under this plan, large businesses that are not providing health care for their employees will save big money. Small businesses — and every business already doing the right thing — would subsidize the minority of large businesses that don’t provide health care.
In fact, 63 percent of the projected $50 million in revenue raised by this plan would come from businesses with fewer than 20 employees. A full 80 percent would be paid by employers with fewer than 50 employees.
The local papers say Newsom supports a voluntary plan. I assume that means employers can choose whether to pay. I’m surprised anyone would propose this with a straight face. Most employers do provide health care. This legislation is about those that don’t. They haven’t volunteered to pay for their own employees’ health care; why would they pay for a city plan?
Then there’s Sup. Tom Ammiano’s proposal.
Ammiano’s plan includes a minimum spending requirement for health care services for all employers with 20 or more employees. Small businesses with less than 20 employees (the vast majority of registered businesses in San Francisco) don’t have to pay anything. Of the three proposals, Ammiano’s seems the fairest to the majority of employers that already provide health care.
The Committee on Jobs tells us that small businesses will be hurt by this plan. I’m always suspicious when a well-funded organization that exists to lobby for the interests of the largest corporations in San Francisco leads with an argument related to the impact to the small business community.
The SFSOS thinks that any decision on Ammiano’s health care plan will be made “predominantly by people who have never worked in retail business, never managed a staff, nor ever had to make a payroll.”
I operated a temporary employment business in San Francisco for 25 years. Ammiano’s plan levels the playing field for all businesses.
For the record, many of my former colleagues within the small business community provide very generous health care benefits. Employees in small businesses, after all, are like family. Many small business owners think that those who do not provide health care have an unfair competitive advantage.
If we’re going to have universal health care, everyone should pay. SFBG
Barry Hermanson
Barry Hermanson is running for state assembly in District 12 on the Green Party ticket.