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"Health" Fee: San Francisco Restaurants Ask Customers to Pay for Healthcare

The next time you eat in a restaurant in San Francisco, take a closer look at the bill. You may see a new line item there, a "health" fee to cover employees' healthcare.

Travel writer Ed Perkins of Chicago Tribune wasn't amused:

The rationale for this one is to cover the employers' mandatory contribution to the City's "Healthy San Francisco" health-coverage system. The charge actually is levied on employers, but at least some restaurants are adding a few dollars or percentage points to each customer's bill to cover this charge.

The restaurants' excuse for assessing this charge separately is to let customers know how much they're paying for employees' health coverage. That's the same excuse hotels use when they add "resort" or "housekeeping" fees to unsuspecting guests' room bills. It's the same excuse airlines would use to exclude fuel surcharges from their advertised fares if the Department of Transportation would allow them. And it's sheer nonsense. Employees' health insurance is no less of a cost of doing business than rent, property taxes, food costs, security services and all the other inputs businesses require to operate. To single out health care for a separate surcharge is unwarranted.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/family/ct-trav-0228-health-charge-20100226,0,6658174.story


Whether they itemize it on the bill or not, it's going to be paid be the customers, won't it? I guess the issue is over the sneakiness of the matter. I guess if it's on the menu, like 1.5% Health fee added to all orders it shouldn't be an issue. The problem with the Airline and Hotel examples is that they never let you know about those fees until you're stuck without any other options.
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The problem with this, and almost every other fee, is that the customer sees one price, but must pay another. In Scotland (and many other countries) even tax is included in the price. I went to a shop, choose a £10 item, and prepared to pay with a £10 bill + change, and got a strange look.
If something is going to cost $21.57, I'll make my decision based on that, but I hate to see $19.99 when I can't pay $20 for it and be on my way.
The fee isn't truly hidden, but it's intellectually dishonest not to price goods and services as they will be charged.
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If they weren't forced to, the employers would not cover the workers. They wouldn't even pay them if they didn't have to. I have worked at several places where the waiters made nothing but tips.
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I have a couple of thoughts about this. The company did not have to disclose this on the receipt at all. They could have just raised their prices and the customers end up paying for it and not realizing. By putting this disclosure on the receipt, the company is letting customers know that the new regulation is costing them money. It is sort of reminding people that these new laws are paid for by the consumers in the end. Sort of like a really sneaky tax.

Also, it was mentioned that no employer provides benefits unless forced to. Depends on the force, I suppose. I knew a fried chicken place that had health benefits, 401k, sick leave, and all kinds of stuff like that. Their reason was that by providing this stuff they were able to keep their workers and keep them happy. They did not do it because they were forced by the government. They were doing it because they were being forced to do it by the job market. This place even paid way more than minimum wage. The business owner learned that keeping employees working for him longer saved him money. Therefore, do what you need to do to keep the employees happy. This place totally lorded over KFC in both quality and service.
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I agree it should be noted on the menu that all prices will be subject to a tax for healthcare, but I disagree with the writer as stating that this is a regular cost of business. This is an extra tax that SF specifically has placed on businesses, and it's not a regular cost of business that the business owners have any control over. I approve of the owners reminding their customers of what effect their votes have on their bills.
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I was born and raised in San Francisco (still here too) and the costs of living is insane. The problem lies with the politicians and the excess spending they do all the time. Rather than cutting back like the rest of America, they raise the toll price, they raise taxes (9.5%!), and they want everybody to have the same benefits. The people running the city are idiots which only reflects the majority of the people living here. The only thing we can do in San Francisco is:
A) Vote the loonies out of city Hall and remove this ridiculous tax
B) Stop eating in San Francisco restaurants, which is nearly impossible to do because the food is so freakin' good!
or C) shut-up and keep eating out.

I personally don't support the tax or any tax in that matter to feed the monster that will never go away, the government. And Miss Celenia, why would you work for no pay? Sorry but that is the stupidest thing you can post. You make it seem like restaurant owners are Nazi's running little concentration camps forcing waiters and waitresses to do their bidding. AND BY THE WAY, waiters and waitresses can make a lot of money on tips alone if they work hard and here it comes, EARN IT.
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@latin trident

Going back to Miss C's comment, she wasn't saying that she wasn't getting paid at all, I'm sure she was refering to the mindset that if it was possible to not pay their workers only to have them survive off tips, they would actualy try it. Anything to boost profits.
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It seems that if people are working at a restaurant where they only get paid for tips, presumable there aren't any jobs open where people get paid wages plus tips. So if this theoretical restaurant were to start paying wages, presumably there would be no job openings since the demand for those jobs is obviously high.

So if you need to make money you benefit by the existence of low demand jobs that are available, like at a restaurant where you only make tips.
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"And it’s sheer nonsense. Employees’ health insurance is no less of a cost of doing business than rent, property taxes, food costs, security services and all the other inputs businesses require to operate. To single out health care for a separate surcharge is unwarranted."

Employers in other countries pretty much don't need to worry about the cost of staff health insurance, where all citizens are covered anyway.
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I was talking to my doctor here in Ontario the other day. He was in Florida last month and chatting with a man who was non-plussed about the health care situation in the United States. 50 million people do not have coverage.

50 million.

This man's attitude was, "I have coverage, so I'm not worried..."

It's not a matter of customers paying a fee for staff or workers paying their own benefits or insurance companies paying out premiums but not covering pre-existing conditions, etc,etc.

There needs to be a WHOLE ATTITUDE shift in the US.

Taxpayers need to pay for UNIVERSAL healthcare.

Thank god for Canada. Sometimes, I can't tolerate the weather, but your health system is effed up.
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it is NOT a right, if you are going to force a business with a tax, why not show the public who is going to pay for it in the end. now that is universal
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Pyrit wrote: Employers in other countries pretty much don't need to worry about the cost of staff health insurance, where all citizens are covered anyway.

So way off base. In France, where health coverage is supposed to be a model for Americans to follow, your payslip is so full of deductions for all the ''free'' help the govt ''offers'', it's depressing.

If I earned 100 euros, 20 - 25 of that went to pay for health care (that I was not entitled to myself because I worked part-time) of the working French, indigents, illegal immigrants and the perpetual unemployed, French or not.

My employer paid the govt about twice what I paid in each pay period.

In France, when you hire someone, you pay that person a salary, for example, and you pay about the same, if not more, to the govt for that same employee each and every month! And you can't fire them unless you can justify a fault on their part, most of the time.

So, if you hire someone for 2000 euros a month, you are, in fact, committing to at least another 2000 on top of that each month.

To write that employers don't worry is insane. They do worry and they do pay. Universal coverage works okay in SMALL countries with a limited population to maintain. But the USA is 300 million plus. Can you not see the burden that imposes on American citizens?

Yes, CITIZENS. Because the money that the govt spends comes from US, not some magic bank acct somewhere. US, you and me.

Can you imagine having to pay for all the people you know who don't pay or won't pay or can't pay? Immigrants who hijack ER resources and leave the debt for US? People who will think going to the doctor is ''free'' and abuse the system because they can? (It's so common in France; human nature is what it is.)

It's a wonderful wish to see everyone covered but it should NOT be done on a federal level. Hell, I live in Hawaii now and the darn state govt takes more out of my pay than the feds because they force you to pay for health and social services for everyone.

Temporary help is totally understandable - life happens. But to provide life-long care for people who can't, don't or won't give into the system is committing financial suicide. Who is going to cover the debt? The govt? Yeah, right. By taxing US.

Be prepared to PAY for your desire to be like Japan or France or Germany. Health care is never free. Someone pays. Always.

And don't assume that because places like Japan or S Korea have universal coverage that the care they all get is exemplary and that the citizens there never abuse the system.

I work with people from one of those countries and they go get acupuncture treatments that last for weeks for illnesses that would be easily cured with Western medecine in 2 days. They get excuses from work for things like ''low energy'' and ''indigestion''.

In France, in larger cities, there are doctors who are well-known for handing out excuses like candy. It's disgraceful.

My own doctor there had to work until 9pm almost every evening and open up by 7:30 in the morning to handle the patient load. AND do house calls. People there go to the doctor sometimes for nothing. They want to get their paracetemol for free, so they go to the doctor to get a prfescription rather than just going to the pharmacy and paying out of pocket, for heaven's sake.

It's great when you really are sick. But the waste and abuse is nearly unchecked. And someone pays for all of it. The citizen who works hard for a living.
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Dragonflye, the difference between US and other countries is that people elsewhere are ready and willing to turn everything over to the government on the assumption that the government is acting in their best interest. The US population has always had a distrust and a simmering anger regarding government, taxes, etc. The thought of the US taking our money and using it to run a healthcare system infuriates some people because it's another instance of the government assuming MORE control over the populace.

(I could care either way. Like the person you talked to - I have healthcare, and I put half my pay into savings with a local credit union in case of an emergency, so I'm not worried. Those other 50 million can fend for themselves.)
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So, I am forced to buy something for my waitstaff that I can't afford myself?

Is this like how I am forced to pay taxes to provide public housing to those the govt favors which is nicer than where I live because I can afford no more due to excessive taxation??? The other day I saw a nice new range being carted into subsidized housing, I never owned a stove that nice and yet I have to help pay for one for someone else.

No wonder people are starting to lose it and go postal against the system.
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My wife and I dine out a lot, here's what we do. When the bill comes we circle the Health tax addition to let the server/bartender know, then we just deduct it from the tip, there is no reason that they should get both a full tip and their medical paid at the same time in an economy where many can't afford medical care.
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