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Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

SF Starts Enrollment in Health San Francisco

SF Starts Enrollment in Health San Francisco

July 7, 2007

Massachusetts is not the only place where enrollment is opening to folks without health insurance. This past week, the door to coverage opened for a municipal program in San Francisco aiming to provide health services to every uninsured city resident. Click here for a San Francisco Chronicle story on the limited opening this past week:

The first group of participants must earn less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level. The program is slated to expand in September, opening to low-income patients who are already seen by the public health department or at other city-supported nonprofit community clinics. In January, the city plans to open up the program to everybody who lives in San Francisco, is uninsured and doesn't qualify for other government health care programs, such as Medi-Cal. Only adults qualify because children are covered under a separate San Francisco program.

Immigration status, pre-existing conditions and employment status don't matter in enrolling for the program. It is not considered health insurance because it doesn't cover participants when they travel outside city limits. Participants must pay a quarterly premium and co-payments. Healthy San Francisco is estimated to cost $200 million a year and will be paid for through a mix of public funds, participants' premiums and co-payments and employer contributions.

The city is mandating that employers who don't currently offer health insurance to their employees contribute to Healthy San Francisco starting Jan. 1. The Golden Gate Restaurant Association has sued to block this component of the program, saying small business owners simply cannot afford it. Both sides are due in federal court Aug. 31.

Another federal court battle involving the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974. Stay tuned.

Click here to reach the official website for Healthy San Francisco.