Healthy San Francisco Program More Successful Than Anticipated
San Francisco's new universal health care program has enrolled more than 1,000 people since the program started on July 2 at two public health centers in Chinatown, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced in Chinatown on Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Enrollment in the program has been higher than anticipated; city officials had estimated that between 600 and 1,000 residents would enroll by the end of August (Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/15).
The Healthy San Francisco health initiative seeks to cover all 82,000 uninsured city residents within 18 months to two years. Under the $200 million annual plan, proposed by Newsom and Supervisor Tom Ammiano, uninsured residents are eligible to receive services within the San Francisco city limits. Proof of citizenship, employment and pre-existing conditions are not considered for eligibility (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 7/3). Beneficiaries are assigned a primary care facility that focuses on preventive care, and they also have access to emergency care, mental health care, substance abuse services, radiology, pharmaceuticals and other medical services.
Newsom said, "One thousand human beings now have a medical home," adding, "One thousand people no longer have the stress associated with day-to-day concerns about how and where to access medical care." City residents who are older than age 24 and are not eligible for Medicare or Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, qualify for Healthy San Francisco. The program does not provide insurance for residents because it does not cover care received outside of the San Francisco city limits.
Enrollment currently is limited to the two Chinatown health centers for residents with incomes up to 100% of the federal poverty level. Twenty more clinics will begin enrolling low-income patients on Sept. 17, and the program on Jan. 2, 2008, will expand to all eligible city residents.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association has filed a lawsuit challenging a provision of the program requiring businesses that have more than 50 employees and do not provide health coverage to contribute to Healthy San Francisco. The association claims the contributions -- which would help fund the program along with city and state funds, and beneficiaries' copayments and quarterly premiums -- would cause businesses to close. Newsom said the lawsuit represents "the final treacherous water" the city must deal with in implementing the program, adding, "I assure you whatever happens with that lawsuit, we're going to work around it" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/15).