Healthy San Francisco Covers the City’s Uninsured

Healthy San Francisco, the innovative program that provides affordable healthcare services to an estimated 53,000 uninsured, was given the green light when the Supreme Court turned down a business group’s challenge.  The Supreme Court decision “is a victory for the 53,0000 San Franciscans who have healthcare today through our groundbreaking universal healthcare program,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom, who spearheaded the program.  “The high court’s decision…ensures we can continue providing healthcare coverage to thousands who otherwise would go without.”Healthy San Francisco covers 53,000 citizens who lack healthcare insurance.

Healthy San Francisco won unanimous approval from the city’s Board of Supervisors in 2006 and went into effect on January 1, 2008.  The law requires businesses with 20 or more workers to provide a certain degree of healthcare coverage for their employees.  Alternatively, they can pay a fixed amount into a city healthcare pool for every hour the uninsured employee works.  The Golden Gate Restaurant Association sued to overturn the law, claiming that the city could not legally force businesses to provide health benefits to its workers or participate in the city pool.  The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that argument, as did the Supreme Court.

Healthy San Francisco provides a safety net to the city’s adults who have lacked healthcare insurance for 90 days.  It provides access to a network of hospitals and public and private clinics that provide low- or no-cost-care.  Tangerine Brigham, the program’s director, notes that “So far, about 1,100 employers have selected Healthy San Francisco as their option.”  Because participants are given a personal physician, expensive ER visits to San Francisco General Hospital fell 27 percent in the first years of the program.  A 2009 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation determined that 94 percent of participants were satisfied with Healthy San Francisco.

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