Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The socialist hordes of San Francisco

I have just returned from a very enjoyable vacation in San Francisco. A week of sunny spring weather, friendly people and California sun was just the ticket after a long winter term. During my stay there, I noticed a very interesting program launched by the city government there, seemingly in defiance of popular opinion in the country. At most of the restaurants we ate at, we were charged an additional 2-5% on our bill in accordance with a new "Healthy San Francisco" program that had been launched by the city government. Curious, I asked our friend, an ex-pat Canadian working for Google, for more details about the program.

As it turns out, this is yet another example of the innovations possible with federalism as the system of government. The San Francisco municipal government has launched its own public health care program, mainly to cover the medical costs of part-time workers and lower income workers. Muncipal employers, such as restaurants, that employ significant numbers of part-time workers are required to contribute to the program to cover their employees' health care costs. It isn't a completely comprehensive program, but it appears to cover a reasonable range of expenses, which is important in a country that lacks a full publicly-funded medicare program. I will be curious to see how well this program functions in the long run, whether other municipalities decide to mimic it, and whether it will withstand legal challenges or elections. But it's heartening to see a jurisdiction take a bold step forward in this regard.

Regular Canadian-oriented blogging should resume shortly, depending on how smoothly my move to a new home goes!

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