Gavin’s health plan for San Francisco

Give Gavin Newsom credit for thinking big. He’s proposing a new plan that would offer health coverage to currently uninsured people who live in San Francisco. Under the current system, far too many people are uninsured, and costing the city money anyway at emergency rooms, he argues.

True enough. Anyone with half an eye open knows the system is broken, and it’s only a matter of time and the gathering of political will before a widespread overhaul happens. Which may be decades, unfortunately.

Newsom is offering something that’s not quite insurance, but will pay for basic and catastrophic treatment, prescriptions, and more for SF residents who opt in. People who work but don’t live in SF wouldn’t be eligible, and all treatment would have to take place in SF. People who make more than $50,000 would pay about $200 a month, people who make $20,000 to $49,000 would pay $35 a month.

Supervisor Ammiano wants to add a provision charging medium-size businesses and up that don’t offer health care to employees $1.60 per hour, per head, to help pay for the plan.

If this element passes, the restaurant industry will revolt politically. Newsom’s reelection campaign in 2007 will be expensive and bloody. But give the guy a hand for tackling problem after problem that most politicians in the United States are too scared to touch.

He’ll have a future. Even if it’s controversial. Good luck to him in this battle.