No sooner did SF Weekly
report that the city's universal health care program Healthy San Francisco had contributed to long lines at public clinics, than a new city report came out this week showing that waits had been reduced during recent months.
According to the the San Francisco Controller's new government barometer
-- a table of highly simplified data compiled from various agencies -- between December and February, the number of average days a new patient waits for an appointment in a San Francisco public clinic droped from 29 days to 25 days, a 13.8 percent improvement. During that time the number of people signed up for Healthy San Francisco rose from 49,359 to 50,768. In Feb. 2009, however, when Healthy San Francisco had 14,000 fewer participants, the average wait for a new patient was only 15 days.
Healthy San Francisco director Tangerine Brigham explained to us that the expansion of Healthy San Francisco isn't the only factor in clinic lines -- and that it's not as big a factor as the numbers suggest. For one thing, only a quarter of new participants are actually new to the city's health-care system. The city has been recording people previously receiving indigent care as new Healthy San Francisco beneficiaries, and they get many of the same benefits, just under a different name. Additionally, the bad economy has been making indigents of many of us, swelling the ranks of those seeking public health care.
Notwithstanding, shortening clinic lines is good news, no matter what the cause.