The best money spent in the Affordable Care Act was the $11 billion dollars put toward expanding and maintaining community health centers across the country. That money will get poured directly into universal care programs for the poor, and possibly lead to some innovations in how we treat people, not just one illness or injury at a time but a comprehensive approach to wellness. The best model for this in the country is San Francisco’s universal care program, Healthy SF, which provides for care for everyone in the city limits, regardless of health, employment or immigration status. It’s not single-payer health care, it’s socialized medicine, and it’s led to significant reductions in the uninsured and a healthier city. Over 53,000 San Franciscans are covered under the program, which offers a full range of care in community health centers on a sliding scale (everyone up to 500% of the poverty level is eligible). I’ve written about it here.
Healthy SF always had one obstacle: getting past the ERISA law. The program has an employer mandate, forcing employers to either provide health care to their workers or pay into a citywide fund. The Golden Gate Restaurant Owners association filed suit over this, arguing that under ERISA, they are not required to provide health care for their workers. Yesterday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, meaning Healthy SF will survive.
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review San Francisco’s Health Access Law that forces most employers to contribute to a health care plan for their workers. The decision ends a four-year battle to uphold the law’s legality.
When Healthy San Francisco was enacted it was considered groundbreaking; the city offered local health plans to the uninsured with funding through employer contributions.
Now the US Supreme Court has refused to consider a lawsuit filed by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association when the law went in effect. Deputy City Attorney Vince Chabria says this is great news for 53,000 beneficiaries of the program.
It’s great news for lots of Americans. . . . Because the San Francisco program was always viewed as a model for community health centers across the nation. You will probably see other cities adopt their approach. And now, there’s nothing legally standing in the way. As Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, said, “This action by the Supreme Court not only upholds the Healthy San Francisco program that provides care for tens of thousands of California, but it keeps the door open for additional health reforms at the state and local level.”
Healthy SF was the brainchild of then-San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano (now a member of the state Assembly), and he felt vindicated by yesterday’s ruling. “Today’s Supreme Court decision is an affirmation of San Francisco’s landmark efforts to provide affordable health care to the uninsured. With over 50,000 people receiving health care services and prescription drugs, Healthy San Francisco is a national model for what can be accomplished when the public and private sector work in partnership towards a common goal.”
With any luck, universal care programs like Healthy SF will be put together all over the country.