At the tail end of a long Board of Supervisors meeting last week, Sup. David Campos introduced legislation to create Covered San Francisco, a city healthcare option designed to remedy a coverage gap that will be created under the Affordable Care Act.
Lately, we've gotten reports of San Franciscans hoping to enroll in Covered California — the state-run health insurance marketplace created under the ACA — leaving meetings with enrollment counselors in tears of frustration. Even though these would-be enrollees are technically eligible for Covered California — which makes them ineligible to stay in Healthy San Francisco — the insurance cost is nevertheless too high to be a realistic option.
"In high cost-of-living cities like San Francisco, many will simply not be able to afford it," Campos said when he introduced the legislation. "The most authoritative study says 40 percent of San Franciscans who are eligible for Covered California still will not be able to afford it."
Co-sponsored by Sups. John Avalos, Eric Mar, and Jane Kim, the legislation seeks to address the problem by creating a new option for employees to receive subsidies to purchase health insurance under Covered California through the Department of Public Health. The funding would be derived from an employer spending requirement already in place under the city's Health Care Security Ordinance, the law that created Healthy San Francisco.
The proposal also seeks to close a loophole that Campos said incentivizes employers to set up health reimbursement accounts for employees that cannot be used to purchase Covered California insurance plans. To discourage the use of these accounts, the proposal would make spending irrevocable, meaning employers would be unable to claw back funding they've contributed. (Rebecca Bowe)
PG&E INDICTMENT DOESN'T GO FAR ENOUGH
A federal grand jury in San Francisco issued a criminal indictment against Pacific Gas & Electric for negligence in the 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people and destroyed an entire neighborhood. But that falls far short of what this rapacious company and its conniving executives — none of whom face personal criminal charges — should be facing.
The indictment omits key details of what happened leading up this tragic and entirely preventable explosion, buying into the fiction that there is a meaningful difference between PG&E Co., the regulated utility, and PG&E Corp., the wealthy and powerful Wall Street corporation. This is a stark example of how corporations are given all the rights of individuals, but accept few of the responsibilities, with the complicity of the political and economic systems.
The 12-count indictment focused on violation of the Pipeline Safety Act, which requires companies to maintain their potentially dangerous pipelines, including keeping detailed records and doing safety inspections that would detect flaws like the faulty weld that caused the San Bruno explosion on Sept. 9, 2010 — work the company negligently failed to perform.
But PG&E's wanton disregard for public safety, combined with the greed and shameless self-interest of then-CEO Peter Darbee and other executives, goes far deeper than that. A report by the California Public Utilities Commission released in January 2012 found that $100 million in ratepayer funds that had been earmarked for pipeline maintenance and replacement, including this section in San Bruno, was instead diverted to executive bonuses and shareholder profits.
"PG&E chose to use the surplus revenues for general corporate purposes," the audit said, noting that the company was flush with cash at the time and there was no good reason to neglect this required maintenance. (Steven T. Jones)