Grand jury: Ban healthy SF surcharges

Like too many other mid-20-somethings in The City, I don’t have health insurance.

I’m a gypsy writer who’s employment doesn’t help me fit through the loopholes to even qualify for Healthy San Francisco.

Not a smart way to live, I know. But this isn’t an “oh-poor-me” piece,” because there’s a group of workers in this city that are having to fight for their healthcare and then some: restaurant workers.

You know those “Healthy SF” charges at the bottom of your restaurant bill? That money’s supposed to go to wait staff and other workers in compliance with a city law that requires business owners and nonprofit employers to help pay for their workers’ healthcare.

Just one problem with that. Business owners were collecting the money, but not putting it toward employees’ health. The problem was so widespread that the justice system had to get involved.

SF Public Press reported Thursday that San Francisco’s civil grand jury came down hard on several restaurants accused of collecting money — under the guise of going towards employee health care or health reimbursement accounts — then basically just pocketing much of it as profit.

In compliance with the Health Care Security Ordinance, the civil grand jury reported that out of 18 restaurants surveyed, 16 of them profited from the collection scheme to the average tune of 46 percent.

46 percent profit margin? We at SFBay know we’re in the wrong business, but damn.

The only two restaurants which didn’t profit from the scheme offered actual, genuine health insurance to its employees. What a novel concept.

When it came to health reimbursement accounts, Mark Busse, chairman of the grand jury committee that conducted the probe, broke down the alarming numbers even further:

“On HRAs, the jury concluded that the system is broken when less than 10 percent of the HRA funds make it to the employees.”

The grand jury recommended that The City ban the surcharges and HRAs altogether.

Upside? No more health reimbursement accounts for business owners to mooch off of. Downside? No more health reimbursement accounts for employees to rely upon for health care expenses.

Not a pretty predicament.

Next on the docket is a review of the grand jury report by Mayor Ed Lee.