SF's universal health plan closely watched

Can any governmental body, even a single city, provide free or subsidized healthcare for all uninsured persons--regardless of income, immigration status or pre-existing medical conditions? That's the question hanging over an ambitious new effort by the city of San Francisco, which is attempting to cover all of the city's 82,000 uninsured for $200 million, or about twice what it already spends on care for low-income residents. The program will cover adults who don't qualify for the state's Medi-Cal program. Companies that don't offer insurance must kick in $1.11 to $1.68 per employee per hour for coverage under the city plan. The city plans to fund the initiative with a mix of tax income, employer contributions and sliding-scale payments from consumers. The program should provide a well-rounded benefits package, including inpatient, pharmacy, lab and specialty services, for about $200 a month. Benefits will be administered by the San Francisco Health Plan, which covers about 50,000 Medi-Cal beneficiaries through a contracted health network. Physicians, hospitals and clinics would then negotiate rates directly with the plan. Critics have questioned whether reimbursement rates will be high enough to attract a large enough provider base to care for the population. City officials counter, for their part, that consultant studies concluded that the rates would work.

Find out more about the plan:
- read this piece in the San Francisco Chronicle