September 14, 2007
San Francisco Takes Unique Approach to Providing Medical Care for All
By KEVIN SACK
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 5 — Diagnosed with polio at age 2, Yan Ling Ho has lived with pain for most of her 52 years. After immigrating here from Hong Kong last year, the soreness in her back and joints proved too debilitating for her to work.
That also meant she did not have health insurance. Not wanting to burden her daughter, who was already paying her living expenses, Ms. Ho delayed doctor visits and battled her misery with over-the-counter medications.
“Sometimes the pain was so bad, I would just cry,” she said. “I didn’t know what else to do.”
Last month, unable to bear her discomfort any longer, Ms. Ho came to North East Medical Services, a nonprofit community clinic on the edge of Chinatown, and discovered to her delight that she qualified for a new program that offers free or subsidized health care to all 82,000 San Francisco adults without insurance.
The initiative, known as Healthy San Francisco, is the first of its kind in the nation, and represents the latest attempt by state and local governments to patch a broken federal system.
It is financed mostly by the city, which is gambling that it can provide universal and sensibly managed care to the uninsured for about the amount being spent on their treatment now, often in emergency rooms.
Fifty-seven million uninsured Americans is such a national disgrace that individual states, cities and even companies are coming up with solutions.
That's not only encouraging, it's a whole lot better way to find innovative answers to the question both Democrats and Republicans have been too well paid off to address.
Washington doesn't work anymore.
It's a terrible shame to admit that, but there is no other conclusion. In matters of national security, health, welfare, education, retirement, infrastructure and budgeting (just to name a few at the top of the list) our government has become entirely disfunctional.