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Ed Lee Addresses "Loophole" in Healthy SF System

Late last month there was a little media blitz about the Healthy SF surcharge, and how maybe restaurants are finding ways to pocket a lot of the cash instead of giving it to their employees for health care. Yesterday, Mayor Ed Lee chimed in on the subject via press release, announcing that he's identified "a loophole in San Francisco’s Health Care Security Ordinance (HSCO)" and a need for "increasing the accessibility of HRA funds to reimburse privately purchased insurance or to pay for participation in Healthy San Francisco." So now we know all of those servers complaining about not seeing the HRA money weren't crazy after all. See the full press release after the hop.

*** PRESS RELEASE ***
MAYOR LEE INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO IMPROVE HEALTH CARE ACCESS & PROTECT JOBS

San Francisco, CA—Mayor Edwin M. Lee today introduced legislation at the Board of Supervisors to close a loophole in San Francisco’s Health Care Security Ordinance (HSCO). The legislation preserves the City’s groundbreaking universal health care access and protects jobs.

“This legislation begins to close a loophole and lays out a framework that honors our commitment to health care access for all while protecting jobs in our City’s small businesses,” said Mayor Lee. “I thank Supervisor David Campos for identifying this loophole and President David Chiu for working on a solution. I know we can all work together to achieve the same bottom-line objective; providing universal health care access and protecting jobs in our City. I look forward to working in partnership with Supervisor Campos, Supervisor Chiu, and all members of the Board in crafting a viable solution.”

Mayor Lee’s legislation provides more health care access while protecting jobs in the City’s small businesses. The legislation will address the loophole in employer deposits into workers’ Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRA). Workers with an HRA are able to draw down the funds in those accounts for a range of health care expenses from reimbursement for health services to payment for health insurance premiums to buying into our Healthy San Francisco program.
Mayor Lee’s plan focuses on increasing the accessibility of HRA funds to reimburse privately purchased insurance or to pay for participation in Healthy San Francisco. Mayor Lee has secured commitments from the business community to communicate with their members about the importance of making these types of expenses eligible under individual businesses’ HRA plans. Additionally, Mayor Lee’s plan includes a robust data-gathering effort through the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to determine how widespread the problem is, and therefore to best tailor a policy solution. By increasing access to health coverage options we ensure that San Francisco workers can more fully exercise the benefit provided them under the HSCO.

Mayor Lee considered the impact to City small businesses and its likelihood of costing employees their jobs while ensuring that businesses comply with the HCSO. Unlike other approaches which the Controller reports could eliminate nearly 500 jobs, this legislation strikes a balance that closes the loophole, provides health care to everyone, protects jobs, and grows the City’s economy.
Mayor Lee will continue to work with all parties – from workers, organized labor, small business owners, Department of Public Health, and the City’s elected leaders – to find the appropriate solution on this important public policy challenge to close the loophole.

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· A Wayfare Tavern Employee Weighs In On the Matter of Restaurant Owners Pocketing Health-Care Surcharges [~ ESF ~]