It’s not insurance, but it’s a hell of a lot better than nothing.
Healthy San Francisco, the health coverage plan for uninsured residents of our fair city, started out with a bang in 2007 — when the registration office on 25th Street and Potrero Ave. saw a crowded mix of newly unemployed techies, artsy hipsters and Mission undocumented filling up the waiting room.
The plan — the first of its kind in the country back then — aims to provide universal health care and currently provides medical coverage to approximately 6% of SF’s population. It can be, but isn’t necessarily free. It all depends on how much money you make and how many dependents you have.
Overall, it’s an amazing project in a country where going to the doctor can cost more than a month’s wages.
The popularity of the universal health care idea — or at least the popularity of arguing about it — has helped HSF, and last year, Kaiser Permanente joined the fray, pumping new blood into a budget during hemorrhagic financial times. It also alleviated the endless wait for an appointment, since the plan’s popularity and increased unemployment meant a two or three month hold on seeing a doctor or a nurse.
Whether the money was flowing or not, the participants of HSF seemed happy enough. A 2009 survey showed astonishingly positive results with 9 out of 10 people saying they would recommend the program to their friends. And they did.
For our fourth episode of “In The Cut” (more modest in its technical arrangement than the first three, but still informative, we think), we speak to one of the providers who is on the front lines of medical care for San Francisco’s under-insured, uninsured and low-income populace.
A long-time advocate of an integrative model of health care, Dr. Davi Pakter (his name is David, but he prefers “Davi”) works at the Potrero Hill Heath Center on Wisconsin Avenue. Today, District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell will award Dr. Pakter and some of his staff a commendation for his work on the Healing Project, Pakter’s Department of Health-funded study on how chiropractic care, acupuncture, yoga and other alternative health care modalities can fit with traditional western medicine to provide better care for lower income patients.
Pakter graduated from the University of Vermont Medical College in 2002 and completed his medical residency at San Francisco General Hospital in a program dedicated to serving the underserved. He learned to speak Spanish and in 2008 completed an internship with Andrew Weil, the king of integrative medicine and a doctor whom Time Magazine once named one of its 25 “most influential” Americans.
Driving through a neighborhood in SF, lines of slim white ladies and men line up in front of yoga studios and alternative healing centers, but rarely do we see lower-income communities provide those kinds of services to patients who cannot pay out of pocket for acupuncture or chiropractic care. Dr Pakter said that data from a 2002 National Health Interview Survey showed that that use of 19 different alternative therapies highest for non-Hispanic whites (36%), followed by Hispanics (27%) and non-Hispanic blacks (26%). After controlling for other sociodemographic factors, it was found that Hispanics and nonblacks use alternative therapies less often and are less likely to disclose their use to their primary care provider.
The three-year-old Healing Project study has not only made those kinds of alternative therapies available to anyone who is a patient at the Potrero Health Care Clinic, but has also kept track of the patients’ progress. Dr. Pakter hopes that the results will allow him to begin a Healing Project in two other Department of Public Health Clinics in San Francisco.