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County to study universal health care
June 27, 2006, 12:00 AM By Michelle Durand
The Board of Supervisors agreed to spend $200,000 toward a universal health care study in the midst of preliminary budget hearings focused on the dwindling middle-class and fewer resources available to keep county families self-sufficient.

"[T]he health care delivery system in this nation is broken and more specifically, and closer to home, the health care delivery system for the indigent and uninsured in San Mateo County is a broken system that is unsustainable and unsupportable as its presently structured,” said board President Jerry Hill, who suggested adding $200,000 back into the budget for health planning over the next year.

The funding will pay for consultants to oversee the planning of a Blue Ribbon Committee for Adult Health Care Coverage Expansion. The project aims to provide taxpayer-subsidized health care to all uninsured residents, mimicking plans currently discussed by officials in the city and county of San Francisco.

The committee will first determine if such an idea is even feasible for San Mateo County and, if so, devise a way for it to work. The approach will be similar to the current Children’s Health Initiative, covering low-income adults below 400 percent of the federal poverty level. The Board of Supervisors expects to consider any plan by July 2007, according to Hill.

Better access to health care is especially acute in light of ongoing debt at the county’s only public hospital, Hill said.

On Monday, during the preliminary budget hearings, supervisors agreed to loan the San Mateo Medical Center roughly $14 million, bringing the total annual deficit to $65 million.

"We have a choice. We can continue business as usual or we can forge ahead on our own and improve the organization, financing and delivery of health care services to the indigent and uninsured in San Mateo County,” Hill said.

The supervisors will vote on the allocation, and all other preliminary changes, to the $1.59 billion budget Wednesday afternoon.

The first day of preliminary budget hearings painted a rather stark picture for county residents, in both health care and other necessities for an average family to stay afloat.

An average family of three needs a gross yearly income of $66,442 to survive — $2,000 more than last year— according to Human Services Agency statistics.

The figure is particularly troubling, according to the agency presentation, because the federal poverty level is $16,000 and the top 10 growing jobs in the county pay less than $30,000.

Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this story? Send a letter to the editor:

Info box: Tuesday’s budget hearing schedule

9 a.m.    Board of Supervisors meeting (Consent items only)

        First 5 of San Mateo County (Information only)

9:30 a.m.    Child Support Services

        Probation Department

        TANF Expenditure Plan

        Probation Budget

1:30 p.m.    Sheriff’s Office/Office of Emergency Services

        Message Switch


        Private Defender

        County Support of the Courts

        Grand Jury

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