San Francisco Health Access Program Ready To Expand Citywide
San Francisco's universal health access program is scheduled to expand citywide on Sept. 17 after exceeding officials' enrollment expectations during a two-month trial, the New York Times reports.
The program, called Healthy San Francisco, launched at two clinics in July. The city's 82,000 uninsured adults are eligible for the program, which offers no-cost or discounted health care services.
Participants will have access to 14 city health clinics and eight affiliated community clinics, with an emphasis on preventive care and chronic disease care. However, because it is not health insurance, the program will not cover the cost of services received outside the city.
Enrollment currently is limited to residents whose incomes do not exceed the federal poverty level. After November, however, the program will not consider immigration status or income, and it will be available to any resident who has been uninsured for at least three months.
More than 1,300 residents enrolled in the program by the end of August, exceeding city officials' projections of 600 to 1,000 residents. Officials hope to enroll about 45,000 residents in the first year.
At the two pilot clinics, workers determine whether patients qualify for Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, or other federal health care subsidies. Those who do not qualify receive a Healthy San Francisco card that gives them access to:
- Primary care;
- Dental exams;
- Mental health and substance abuse services;
- Radiology; and
- Prescription Drugs.
Tangerine Brigham, the program's director, estimates that it will cost $200 million in the first year. Funding is expected to come from the city, federal funds, membership fees and copayments, and mandatory business contributions.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association is challenging the employer contributions provision in court, arguing that it violates a federal law governing employer health benefits. A hearing is scheduled for November (Sack, New York Times, 9/14). 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.