Closing the Health Care Loophole

In 2006, former Supervisor Tom Ammiano pushed for a Health Care Security Ordinance that went into effect in San Francisco.

The ordinance included three options to provide San Francisco workers with health care.

The first option was the “Healthy San Francisco” insurance, the second was for employers to purchase health insurance for their employees, and the third required the employer to set up Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRA’s) for their employees.

The HRA option allows the employer to charge an extra 4% or more to the price of their menus, and the money made would go into an account the employee would use when they needed health care.

Although the plan sounds fair, employers can restrict how and when the employee can use their funds. For example, employers can deny reimbursement for dental care, vision care or insurance premiums. Additionally, at the end of each year, all the money accumulated in the employee account would be cleared and the employer would pocket the money. This meant that during the height of the flu season (January/February), employees wouldn’t have enough money in their accounts to use when they got sick.

In 2010, 860 companies contributed a total of $62.5 million into the employee accounts, but only $12.4 million (roughly 20%) was actually used by its employees. Supervisor David Campos noticed the loophole and over the summer he pushed for an amendment to close it. His amendment would stop employers from wiping out their employees accounts each year, and instead let the money roll over into the next year. Unfortunately, his amendment lacked support among businesses, the mayor and other supervisors. Business owners claimed that it was a burden to manage the accounts, and the unused accumulated money they pocketed at the end of each year helped their businesses stay afloat.

This past Tuesday, Campos pushed for a revised amendment where employers could close the accounts 18 months after the employee has stopped working for them. So far, Campos is supported by Supervisors Cohen, Mar, Avalos, Kim and Mirkarimi. It is enough support to pass the amendment, but not enough if the Mayor decides to veto it.

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About MiCoCo

The Mission Community Council (MiCoCo) is an organization of Mission District community organizations, faith groups, neighborhood associations, and public departments that have united to promote the well-being of San Francisco's Mission District. The Council strengthens the neighborhood by expanding the community’s skill bank and by increasing opportunities for the families, and residents, of this diverse, working class, immigrant, and Latino community.
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