San Francisco passes groundbreaking
City Health Care plan
Supervisor Ammiano walked around the legislative chamber, hugging
each board member in turn, to thank them for their support after
the Board unanimously voted to approve legislation he spearheaded,
creating the San Francisco Health Access Program.
By Angela Hokanson, Bay City News Service
July 18, 2006, 5:00 p.m.
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - The San Francisco Board of Supervisors
voted unanimously today to approve legislation that creates the
Health Access Program, which will provide health care services
for all of the uninsured residents -- estimated to be 82,000 people
-- of the city.
The legislation, which is known as the San Francisco Health Care
Security ordinance, is the result of the merging of two pieces
of legislation: an ordinance sponsored by Supervisor Tom Ammiano
called the Worker Health Care Security ordinance, and San Francisco
Mayor Gavin Newsom's proposed Health Access Program.
Ammiano's version of the legislation was first introduced in
November of 2005. The legislation has been heard in the Budget
and Finance Committee 17 times since then, according to board
of supervisors president Aaron Peskin.
Last week, the decision was made to merge the two pieces of legislation.
On Monday, the Budget and Finance Committee voted unanimously
in favor of the legislation.
"There's only been a rare moment...where we stand on the
verge of something as significant...as this merged piece of legislation,"
Ammiano said before the vote was cast. San Franciscans are saying
" we want to put health care on the front burner" with
this initiative, Ammiano said.
After the unanimous vote, Ammiano, brushing away tears, walked
around the legislative chamber, hugging each board member in turn
to thank them for their support.
Ammiano described health care as "an issue worthy of the
All uninsured San Franciscans will be eligible to enroll in the
Health Access Program, regardless of their employment status or
any pre-existing conditions they may have. The program emphasizes
preventive services, according to the legislation. Covered services
include primary care, laboratory services, prescription drugs,
and emergency care, among other types of medical services. The
program is not technically health insurance.
The program will be funded with a combination of monies from
the city, contributions from San Francisco businesses, payments
from individuals enrolled in the program, and federal and state
The legislation also mandates that large and medium-sized San
Francisco businesses contribute money to help cover the health
care expenses of their employees.
Initially, medium-sized San Francisco businesses will pay $1.06
per hour for each of their employees every quarter. Large businesses
will pay $1.60 per hour per employee each quarter. Medium businesses
are classified as those that have, on average, between 20 and
99 employees, and large businesses are those that have on average
100 or more employees Employers could make the required payments
in a variety of ways, from contributing to employees' health savings
accounts, reimbursing their employees directly for health care
services, paying a third party for delivering health care services
or contributing to the Health Access Program.
The legislation will go into effect in three phases. The first
phase begins on July 1, 2007. At that time, the Health Access
Program will be up and running, and businesses that have more
than an average of 50 employees per week will start making health
The board of supervisors will vote a second time on the legislation
before it is passed on to the mayor's office.
"All of us should be proud of this attempt...and we should
be humbled by it," Ammiano said of the legislation.
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