Saturday, October 4, 2008

San Francisco Gets Health Care Backwards

Who needs health care coverage?

People without it,  and preferably those least able to afford it. That's what makes San Francisco's recent moves on health care all the more perplexing.

When the city fought in court to charge businesses for employee health care coverage, it turned the whole program upside-down, placing the burden on those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

No, not businesses, who are only the most visible contributors. I'm talking about employees, especially the ones in need of health care.

They'll be hit hard by the foolish flat-rate payment to the city. The nearly $2/hr charge is minor only for those with large salaries. For the poorest employees, it's a significant portion, more than 20% of San Francisco's substantial ($9.36/hr) minimum wage.

 The employees at your nearest retail store, and the dishwasher at your favorite restaurant, the gal who stocks the shelves at the corner grocery and the guy who hangs your dry-cleaning -  they're all earning minimum wage, and now each of their employers sees labor costs leap 20 percent.

Guess what happens to the price of milk at the corner store.

And to the cost of your dry cleaning, and your meals out, and everything else you buy. Those price increases may not matter much to the wealthiest, who already have health care, but they will to the very people who need the new  coverage.

Yes, businesses with fewer than 20 employees are exempt, but that hardly helps. They often need health care options anyway - I do, at my own business - and companies just over the limit face a terrible set of choices. Any company with 30 employees that sees its labor costs leap has got to consider layoffs, and that's the worst kind of coverage of all.

Far better is the Massachusetts plan: spread the cost through all participants, subsidize for the poorest, and make sure the burden doesn't break the very people you're trying to help.

No comments:

Post a Comment