San Francisco Mayor’s Proposed Budget Allocates $6M to New Program for Uninsured Children
The $5.2 billion proposed city budget for FY 2001-2002 unveiled this week by San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown (D) includes a $6 million allocation to provide health insurance for an estimated 5,000 uninsured children, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The program, titled "San Francisco Cares for Kids," was approved by the city's health commission in January, but officials worried that it would not receive funding because of the city's growing financial concerns. Modeled after Santa Clara County's experiment in universal coverage for children, the San Francisco initiative would be open to children under 19 -- including illegal immigrants -- whose families earn less than 300% of the federal poverty level ($45,450 a year for a family of three) but too much to make their children eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families. Beneficiaries would pay a premium of $4 per month and would receive medical, dental and vision coverage. The program, which could begin in January if approved by the city Board of Supervisors, would be administered by the San Francisco Health Plan, a "quasi-public agency" that works like a managed care company. The organization will launch a public outreach campaign to encourage enrollment if approved by supervisors, who have "indicated their support for such health coverage." The Mercury News reports that funding for San Francisco Cares for Kids follows a "decision last month requiring city contractors to provide health insurance to their employees" and marks the latest step in the "citywide effort to piece together health care for the estimated 135,000 uninsured city residents" (Vo, San Jose Mercury News, 6/1).
The mayor's proposed budget also includes $990 million in funding for the Department of Public Health, up from $914 million this year, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The increased funds for the department would allow it to lift a hiring freeze and take on 124 additional workers, according to Steve Kawa, Brown's budget director. In addition, the added funding would enable the department to buy new equipment and to provide more coverage for the uninsured, he said, adding, "The money is going for enhanced services, not just to make up for federal and state cuts." The Chronicle reports that the agency "has been a steady drain on the city's budget," primarily because of state and federal reimbursements cuts for services at public health facilities. While the department's share of city funds has increased from $637 million since Brown's first year in 1996, "patients and staff have complained about reductions in services" (Epstein, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/29). The mayor's proposed budget can be found at http://www.ci.sf.ca.us/mayor/budget00/index.htm.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.