Merging Ammiano legislation with health care access an act of
By Nathan Nayman
July 6, 2006
The proponents of the Ammiano plan are desperate. The merger
of the Ammiano legislation with the Newsom Health Care Access
Plan is evidence of this desperation.
The Ammiano plan cannot stand on its own. How can you merge the
Mayor's non-insurance program with one that is based upon employer
paid health insurance?
The Ammiano plan is nothing more than a mandates that a sets
an amount of money to be spent by San Francisco employers on their
employees' for healthcare insurance whether the employee wants
health care insurance coverage or not.
The Newsom Plan promotes a new product -- not an insurance product
but one that offers all San Francisco residents access to defined
health care services - in fact, providing everyone a "medical
home' of their choosing.
This new product's innovative approach was designed by a task
force called the Universal Health Care Council comprised of experts
in the field of healthcare policy.
But rather than go into further details of the program, there
is one issue that is missing from this debate -- the link between
health insurance and the workplace.
The workplace acts as the central entry point to the American
healthcare system and it is broken. It has been sputtering along
for decades. There have been scores of articles about this phenomenon
in newspapers and journals, but yet we all continue to blindly
follow this flawed approach for paying for our healthcare.
It was during World War II when wage and price controls were
imposed and the only way companies could compete for employees
was through richer "fringe" benefits, including health
insurance. Finally, big unions began to bargain for "health
packages" in their contracts with these major employers.
It is an old model
.old and in the way.
With growing healthcare costs, costs for health insurance continues
to escalate resulting in fewer small and medium sized companies
able to offer it.
For the last few years medical costs have been increasing for
the employer by about 11%.
With greater demand for the newest and most advanced medical
care, costs will only continue to rise under the current health
Recently, the President of the Service Employees International
Union, (known as SEIU) Andrew Stern testified that, "We have
to recognize that employer-based health care is ending; it is
dying before our very eyes."
United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger wrote in a commentary
in the Detroit News that the nation's system of employer-based
coverage is faltering, while health costs are rising.
"Members of our union have learned through hard experience
that relying on individual employers to provide health care is
inefficient and a drag on our ability to compete in the global
economy," he said. "Does it make any sense for the United
States to continue on a policy course -- employer-based health
care -- which gives foreign manufacturers a cost advantage worth
tens of billions of dollars over U.S. companies that employ U.S.
So we have two leading labor leaders claiming in public that
the employer based health insurance system is tragically flawed-
and yet here we are today calling for a new mandatory health spending
requirement on businesses to fund a broken system
more money to health insurance companies.
What is wrong with this picture?
The Newsom Health Access Program is not a health insurance program
- it is not an employer mandate requiring minimum spending by
If San Francisco prides itself on being on the leading edge of
maybe now is the time to stop funding an
idea that does nothing to fix our system, but rather cause job
loss and unrelenting pain to San Francisco businesses.
Nayman serves as executive director to the Committee on Jobs,
a coalition of San Francisco's largest employers dedicated to
improving the City's economic vitality.