San Francisco’s Pioneering Health Program Shows That Local Governments Can Help All Working Families

Source: Jake Martín Grumbach, Scholars Strategy Network, Basic Facts, November 2014

In an era of polarized politics and a deadlocked U.S. Congress, reformers determined to help working families are shifting efforts toward lower levels of government. This is what led to the passage and implementation of a local public health program called “Healthy San Francisco.” Financed in part by fees charged to employers who do not insure their workers, the San Francisco program has provided care to over 60,000 residents, about three quarters of the city’s uninsured population. Seeing it as a viable model, officials in Los Angeles have begun to replicate some aspects of this approach. In the past, conventional wisdom has assumed that cities cannot act alone to help working families but, along with urban minimum wage laws, universal urban health programs show what can be done.