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SF Restaurants Begin Adding Health Insurance Surcharge to Tabs

SF Restaurants Begin Adding Health Insurance Surcharge to Tabs

March 19, 2008

Many restaurants in San Francisco are adding surcharges to their customer bills to cover their mandatory assessments under the SF universal coverage law. The LA Times covers the new development "Social Policy on the Menu," excerpt below:

In the hip South of Market neighborhood, the menu at Tres Agaves, a popular Mexican restaurant and tequila bar, has a small message at the bottom of the first page that says, "3.5% service charge will be added to all checks for the San Francisco affordable healthcare legislation."

At issue is the city's new effort, kicked off Jan. 9, to provide healthcare for all residents. Since then, employers with more than 20 workers are required to spend a minimum amount on health insurance, set aside money in health reimbursement accounts or pay a fee to the city's Healthy San Francisco program.

A big city jumping into universal healthcare is unprecedented. The program is being watched closely as officials from Sacramento to Washington to invent ways to provide and pay for care for the uninsured.

Restaurant patrons so far don't seem to mind footing the bill for expanded healthcare. "We haven't noticed it, so I guess it's not that big a deal," said Stacy Wong, a Tres Agaves customer waiting with friends to lunch on Jalisco-style fish tacos.

Seems like a not-so-bad solution and makes one wonder why businesses oppose employer mandates so much. Providing health insurance to workers is part of the price of goods and services in any company that provides worker coverage. If all employers do it, whether explicitly or implicitly, that's up to them.