Mayor: San Francisco's health care may be model for nation

SAN FRANCISCO — Three years ago, this city turned itself into a laboratory for remaking the country's health care system with a bold experiment to expand services to the uninsured, working poor and medically underserved.

Mayor Gavin Newsom touts Healthy San Francisco as a signature accomplishment — worthy as a model for the nation.

It's too early to tell whether he is right, with researchers only beginning to evaluate the program's early successes and longer-term limitations.

But many eyes are turning toward San Francisco's brand of universal health care. Just last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius chatted with Newsom during a visit to San Francisco, seeking to learn from the city's experience.

"We know that the health care status quo is unsustainable, and we need an American solution to this American problem," her spokesman, Nicholas Papas, said in an e-mail.

President Barack Obama has taken notice, too, praising Newsom, among other mayors, at a White House gathering in February. The Obama administration has made overhauling the country's health care system a priority, and Congress is in the midst of drafting legislation.

"Instead of just talking about health care," the president said, "mayors like Gavin Newsom in San Francisco have been ensuring that those in need receive it."After years of hand-wringing, San Francisco applied some of the principles now being hotly debated in Washington, such as a government-run health plan and employer spending mandates.

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