San Francisco Tax Hike Cannot Help Public Health Bureaucracy

Don’t get me wrong: of all the various byzantine agencies that comprise the massive (and growing) government intervention in American health care, counties’ public-health agencies are probably my favorite (or, perhaps to assuage the arch-libertarian readers, “the least harmful”). They do things like inspecting restaurants for cleanliness, watching out for infectious diseases, and issuing birth & death certificates.

So the idea that San Francisco’s Healthy San Francisco program’s tax-hike on small businesses had not rescued the budget of the San Francisco Department of Public Health is not something to gloat about. Rather, it’s an opportunity to revisit the limits of government power in health care. Healthy San Francisco was based on the myth that SF General Hospital was overburdened with uninsured patients coming in for “free” health care at taxpayers’ expense. San Francisco’s solution? Increase taxes, by imposing a “pay-or-play” mandate on individuals without health insurance and employers who hire them. We’ve discussed this plenty.

The SF Department of Public Health has a budget of $1.5 billion, of which $410 million comes from the City & County’s discretionary fund. Due to state and other cutbacks, it’s looking at a deficit of $25 million this fiscal year, and the City & County are demanding $75 million in further cutbacks, in order to balance the budget at City Hall.

Needless to say, the Department and its dependents are lobbying against the cuts. How does Healthy San Francisco fit in? Well (if I understand the program’s report, and I’m not sure I do, because it’s a slideshow instead of a budget), it expects to earn about $15 million annually from taxes on employers and enrolment fees.

Well, that won’t do much to solve the “crisis” – which by the way, has nothing to do with uninsured working people, we learned this morning. As you probably already suspected, it has to do with homeless drug addicts and alcoholics.

But hey, there’s no problem that another tax on business can’t fix, according to our health care elites.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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