San Francisco Health Access Program Beats Enrollment Target
Enrollment in San Francisco's universal health access program hit 1,047 on Monday, beating city officials' expectations for enrollment of 600 to 1,000 residents by the end of August, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The program, called Healthy San Francisco, launched at two clinics on July 2. The limited launch is intended to help identify and correct problems in the process before 20 other clinics begin enrolling city residents on Sept. 17.
Healthy San Francisco currently is enrolling only city residents whose incomes do not exceed the federal poverty level, but the program will open to people of all income levels on Jan. 2, 2008 (Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/15).
City residents whose incomes do not exceed 500% of the poverty level will be eligible for discounts on a sliding scale (Trapp, American Medical News, 8/20).
Enrollment will not consider immigration or employment status, or pre-existing medical conditions.
San Francisco Department of Public Health personnel are enrolling 30 to 40 patients daily (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/15). Program officials expect to sign up more than 4,000 residents monthly beginning next month, as the program is phased in over 18 to 24 months.
Healthy San Francisco will cover medical services at San Francisco's network of health clinics; because it is not health insurance, the program will not cover the cost of services received outside of the city (American Medical News, 8/20). Program participants can receive surgical services at San Francisco General Hospital.
Under the program, participants will be assigned to a primary care facility that will encourage them to undergo regular preventive care. The program also will cover:
- Emergency services;
- Mental health care;
- Prescription drugs;
- Radiology services; and
- Substance abuse treatment (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/15).
Dental and vision benefits are not included under Healthy San Francisco (American Medical News, 8/20).
Healthy San Francisco is expected to cost $200 million annually and rely on federal, state and county funds, as well as mandatory contributions from businesses (California Healthline, 7/13).
Employers' contributions will be based on the number of employees; firms with fewer than 20 employees and not-for-profit organizations with fewer than 50 employees will be exempt from the mandate.
Tangerine Brigham, director of the program, estimates that businesses will contribute $2.1 million from January to June 2008 and considerably more in subsequent years.
The California Restaurant Association has challenged the employer mandate, arguing that the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act bars state or local governments from adopting health care spending requirements (American Medical News, 8/20).
A hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 31 (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/15).
Brigham says that the program will continue in some form even if the employer contribution is struck down (American Medical News, 8/20).