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Ammiano and Newsom co-author plan
for universal health care access

Parallel Ammiano mandated health care coverage for part-time workers seen veto-proof

By Pat Murphy

June 19, 2006, UPDATED 10:00 p.m.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano and Mayor Gavin Newsom agreed late today on a universal health care access plan for 82,000 uninsured San Franciscans.

They will announce co-authorship of that plan Tuesday at an 11:30 a.m. press conference slated in San Francisco Foundation offices.

Details will be finalized at Foundation offices by a stakeholder health care council established for negotiations. The council begins its final meeting at 8:30 a.m.

"It's a plan that not only do I wholeheartedly endorse but it's a plan that Supervisor Ammiano we anticipate will be introducing formally at the Board of Supervisors as early as tomorrow," Newsom told the Sentinel.

Business and labor leaders lobbied Newsom and individual supervisors throughout the afternoon, with talks overlapping on earlier Ammiano legislation requiring health care coverage for part-time employees.

Ammiano introduced that legislation on November 22, 2005, originally mandating part-time worker coverage for businesses employing 20 or more employees. The Budget Committee will meet Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. to consider a final version including employee threshold mandate.

"I support the mandate but we obviously got some folks who are concerned about that but Supervisor Ammiano is going to be moving ahead," stated Newsom. His office added that Newsom may suggest staggering implementation over time to buffer impact on businesses.

Labor representatives met with Newsom at 1:30 p.m., followed by a 3:00 p.m. mayoral session with business leader. Newsom and Ammiano met at 4:30 p.m.

Following their meeting with the mayor, business representatives asked Supervisors Fiona Ma and Bevan Dufty to break from committee meetings each was attending.

Ammiano's office is confident of a veto-proof majority vote by the board in favor of the legislation.

Legislative summary of joint Ammiano-Newsom health access program

"The San Francisco Department of Public Health will create and oversee the program, which will be called the San Francisco Health Access Program. The City shall provide services through the program for uninsured and indigent residents pursuant to its obligations under State and Federal law. The program is not intended to serve as an insurance plan for participants. Under the program, uninsured San Francisco residents may obtain medical care including, but not limited to, services in the areas of preventive, primary, and specialty care, as well as urgent and emergency care, from a network consisting of San Francisco General Hospital and the Department of Health's clinics, and community non-profit providers.

"The Health Access Program will be open to uninsured San Francisco residents, regardless of employment or immigration status, who are otherwise eligible for services. No eligible participant shall be excluded from the program based on a pre-existing condition.

"The program shall provide participants with comprehensive medical care, with an emphasis on wellness and preventive care. The available benefits may include laboratory, inpatient hospitalization, x-ray, elective surgery, and pharmaceuticals. All participants shall be eligible for the same benefits and health care services.

"The program may be funded from a variety of sources, including payments from participating employers and individuals, and the City and County of San Francisco. City funding shall prioritize program services for low income participants, and will subsidize where possible, participation by businesses with fewer than one hundred employees.

"A third party vendor, in coordination with the Department of Public Health, will administer program operations, including basic customer services, eligibility determinations, enrollment of individuals and groups, tracking service utilizations, billing, and communication with the participants.

"Under the proposed legislation, the director of Public Health shall convene a working group to provide the program with expert consultation and direction. Members shall be approved by the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors. The group shall be known as the Health Access Working Group."




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