The federal health care overhaul signed last month by President Obama will not prompt significant changes in the short term for Healthy San Francisco, the city program that provides medical care for more than 51,000 low-income residents. And even when most major provisions of the federal law take effect in 2014, city officials say, there will still be a need for Healthy San Francisco to serve an estimated 20,000 patients who will not have health insurance under the federal law, including many who are in the country illegally.
Healthy San Francisco
For hospital administrator Roland Pickens, Healthy San Francisco offers more than universal health care and coverage for the city’s uninsured. The three-year-old city program also is inspiring new approaches to streamlining medical care. Pickens, chief operating officer of San Francisco General Hospital, said the city health care program has led to innovations that include evening and weekend clinics, better care of patients with chronic conditions, electronic referrals that speed up the appointment process and a teleconferencing system that has doubled the availability of interpreters.
The Nibbi Brothers construction company is a big supporter of San Francisco’s nearly universal health care program, even though it includes a mandate on employers to provide benefits to their workers. Bib Nibbi, the company’s president, says the law levels the playing field with companies that bid against him and win by slashing their labor costs. The city, he says, should avoid a “race to the bottom.”
Daniel Scherotter, a restaurant owner and chef, is leading the fight against Healthy San Francisco. It is not that he opposes the health care program. He simply thinks the city’s businesses, particularly restaurants, should not be required to finance universal health care.
A San Francisco clinic that serves the poor was flooded with new patients when the city created its Healthy San Francisco program. Now the doctor who runs the clinic is preaching prevention for those patients. Third in a series on universal health care in San Francisco.
The overhaul of America’s health care system may be stalled in Washington, but in San Francisco, a new method of delivering health care is already in place. Known as Healthy San Francisco, it is designed to care for the poor and under-served. It provides universal access to health care, comes with a public option, and has no exclusion for prior medical conditions.