National Press Club

S.F. Mayor Sees Cities, States Taking Health Care Lead

September 24, 2008 | By Keith Hill

If there is any progress in providing universal health care to all Americans, it will come from the cities and states rather than the federal government, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom told a Newsmaker audience Sept. 23.

Newsom, speaking in the Broadcast Operations Center, expressed no confidence in either the Congress or the next president in making health care available to all Americans. He lamented that the health care issue is currently on the back burner and more and more Americans are falling into the ranks of the uninsured.

Calling health care a "moral, ethical & economic issue," he said he would like to see the same response as is occurring with the financial crisis because the problem is getting worse, not better.

Newsom's main topic of discussion was the Healthy San Francisco Program that offfers universal access to health care to city residents up to age 25. Over 29,000 San Franciscans are enrolled in the program, or more than half of the city's
uninsured, he said. The program, which includes partnering with the public schools to fund healthy food programs, began with a task force, Newsom said.

Money was no object, and framing the question as how to provide health care instead of health insurance made the problem easier to solve, he noted, adding that lack of imagination has made this problem more complex. The focus of this program is on prevention rather than treating people after they become sick, he told the audience.