Ammiano Calls for Continued Access to Healthy S.F. for U.S. Citizens
Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) is urging the San Francisco Department of Public Health to change a policy that will keep some uninsured U.S. citizens from obtaining care through the Healthy San Francisco program but allow undocumented immigrants in the area to retain access to the program, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/15).
Background on Healthy San Francisco
The city launched Healthy San Francisco in 2007 to provide health insurance to adult residents who earn too much to qualify for Medi-Cal but not enough to purchase private insurance. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
Healthy San Francisco receives funding from the city, the federal government, patient contributions and fees imposed on San Francisco businesses that do not provide health coverage for their workers. The program receives no funding from the state.
Over the past five years, Healthy San Francisco has evolved from its origins as a safety-net insurance option to a program that covers about 85% of San Francisco's uninsured residents (California Healthline, 1/7).
Currently, about 42,500 individuals are enrolled in the program, including 17,000 undocumented immigrants, according to the city Department of Public Health.
Details of Change
In a fall 2013 newsletter, the program notified beneficiaries that they no longer will qualify for coverage in Healthy San Francisco if they are eligible for Medi-Cal or premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for assistance under the ACA and still will be able to use the Healthy San Francisco program.
Ammiano -- who helped create the Healthy San Francisco program when he was a member of the city's Board of Supervisors -- called the change "outrageous" and "very troubling." He said those who created the program "knew it would help the undocumented, but we didn't write it just for the undocumented."
Health Department's Response
Barbara Garcia, head of the city health department, said it would be unfair to continue offering coverage through Healthy San Francisco to residents who qualify for assistance through the ACA.
In addition, Garcia noted that the Healthy San Francisco program is not as comprehensive as regular insurance coverage because it does not include care outside of the city.
However, she acknowledged that some individuals who are shifted out of the program could lose access to their doctors because the health department has not yet contracted with Covered California.
Garcia said the city might allow some individuals to stay in the Healthy San Francisco program on a case-by-case basis (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.