Healthy SF will play role in insuring residents

March 23, 2010 6:55:59 PM PDT
The goal of Healthy San Francisco when it was conceived three years ago was to cover all those in the city who are uninsured. They now have 51,000 enrollees, and the membership keeps growing.

It is a typical day at Healthy San Francisco's offices. As of noon, staff answered 127 phone calls, mostly from potential enrollees.

"That's actually one of the reasons why I moved to San Francisco, is because of this program," San Francisco resident Jessie Ristau said.

Ristau is a recent 23-year-old college grad who's studying for her admissions exam for medical school.

Ironically, even this future doctor can't even get health insurance, so she's enrolling with the city program.

"There are a lot of people who are in a period of transition right now, who just finished college and especially with the economy, it's really difficult to find a job," she said.

About two-thirds of Healthy San Francisco's enrollees are at or below the federal poverty line. Many of them will now qualify for Medicaid under the new national health plan.

But there are still those who can't get Medicaid, and those who don't qualify for any insurance.

"Our program will continue to be available for those individuals who are undocumented," Healthy San Francisco Director Tangerine Brigham said.

But enrollees like Allen Myers will probably be gone.

"Once I stopped going to school and turned that age, I was off my parent's health plan," he said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom says the national plan will now cover many of these young people.

"Those that are otherwise being termed out from their parents are now having an extension to 26 on their family plans," he said.

Brigham puts all this in perspective.

"We'll be serving fewer people because they have insurance, and that's a good thing," she said.

Newsom has assigned the city health director to head a group that will analyze what the new federal plan means to the city.

Administrators of Healthy San Francisco say their priority will be to get their members insured under the national plan.


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