Universal health care stands up
to committee scrutiny
By Elizabeth Pfeffer
June 23, 2006
The Budget and Finance Committee heard the Department of Public
Health's budget proposal Thursday, continuing discussion on the
$200 million-a-year universal
health care access plan Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Tom
Ammiano announced Tuesday.
The San Francisco Health Access Plan, which is intended to serve
82,000 uninsured San Franciscans, had Supervisor Sean Elsbernd
asking what the consequences would be if the actual number of
SFHAP participants falls short of that projection.
He was critical of the possibility for fallout since the plan
was designed under the assumption that all uninsured people will
DPH Director Dr. Mitch Katz said that shouldn't happen.
"To make this workable this becomes your new sliding scale."
Rather than bill patients based on economic need, as is done
at San Francisco public hospitals, SFHAP will charge monthly premiums
dependent on similar income requirements.
It will cost $2 million to get the program in place, then the
premiums will pay for it, Dr. Katz said.
The plan will also be subsidized by tax dollars and contributions
The system will function so that fees are paid prior to hospital
visits, like private health care, and in effect will become the
payment option offered to uninsured patients.
But SFHAP is not health care, it's health care access, because
it's only available in San Francisco.
The Budget and Finance Committee will continue to hear the DPH
budget proposal and make changes to it and other City department
budgets through next week.
On other items, the committee had already approved over $1 million
in partial funding for the San Francisco Trauma Recovery Center
in the week, and approved an additional $111,000 Thursday
in a 3-0 vote.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin was absent at the time, and Supervisor
Elsbernd voted no on principal.
"I don't think it's appropriate to be adding back into the
budget at this time. It's not the program, more than anything
it's a symbolic vote about the process."
At next week's DPH hearing Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said he
wants to discuss reinstating the Worker's Compensation Clinic
at San Francisco General.
The clinic was the only proposed program cut in the 2006-2007