Current Newsom Health Plan Expands Earlier Coverage Program

July 17, 2006 ( - The plan that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's recently announced to offer a universal health coverage actually represents an expansion of a 10-year-old program that covers medical expenses for lower-income Golden State residents.

Newsom’s proposed expansion of the state’s Medi-Cal program is a radical one that offers welcoming arms to the estimated 82,000 San Franciscans who are not covered, regardless of income, immigration status or pre-existing medical condition, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

In 1994, at the urging of the state, the city created a health care management organization for residents served by the Medi-Cal insurance program. The city’s goal was to control costs by better managing the care Medi-Cal beneficiaries received. The health plan now has 52,000 members, 32,000 of whom receive Medi-Cal coverage.

But before the Board of Supervisors signs off on the Newsom administration’s San Francisco Health Access Program, a majority of supervisors and the mayor will have to agree on how to pay for it.The $200 million that Newsom’s proposal is estimated to cost annually would be paid for primarily with city funds, as well as through a combination of business contributions and member premiums. A local bill would require some companies to pay for employee health care.

According to the Chronicle, the city is still discussing the health needs of the city’s uninsured population and if they would be willing to pay for a plan under which care is provided only in San Francisco and largely at public and nonprofit clinics and hospitals.

One of the plan’s principal objectives, supporters say, will be to promote the advantages of preventive care – regular visits to a gynecologist, for example, and to help beneficiaries establish long-term relationships with primary care physicians – in hopes of persuading the uninsured to sign up.