July 14, 2011

If Health Insurance Works in San Francisco ...

Today was one of those days that could have gone horribly wrong -- but didn't. 
 Our COBRA health insurance ran out. Very bad. However, we are fortunate to live in San Francisco, which in its progressive manner, has found a way to create a health insurance program for its citizens. Is it free? No. But the cost to each person is based on an indexed ability to pay. 

Because more people can see health care providers on a regular basis for preventive care, a great deal of the cost for the program is borne by a serious reduction in county hospital emergency room costs and by catching diseases in early stages, which is always less expensive. Oh, and there is a tremendous savings by completely eliminating insurance companies from the process. It's what Obamacare could have been, if the government had been brave and gutsy enough to bypass the insurance companies.

My husband and I have income; therefore, our participation amount is at the higher end of the spectrum. That's fine. We should contribute more, so that others who can't afford the cost still will have access to health care. But the charges are well within our ability to pay without having to resort to making cat food sandwiches on bargain white bread. Believe me, the COBRA premiums were high enough to make this a consideration (2/3 of our San Francisco rent).

So today, we enrolled in the Healthy San Francisco program. This was not a depressing public office that feeds folks into a grimy free clinic, but a pleasant (yet basic) business environment, where caring enrollment officers help people go through the process. We had a choice of providers and systems to join, selected one that suited our needs, and walked out an hour later knowing who our medical providers would be and our cost for the services. Efficient and pleasant. We are relieved and thrilled.

The intangible that comes from this is actually the most important thing -- peace of mind. The reduced worry frees us up to concentrate on job hunting and working on the family writing and publishing business. Thank you, San Francisco.

July 6, 2011

Clement Street: A Village Within a Village

    In April, I spoke about San Francisco being a collection of small villages. A reader suggested that I might make this into a series of sorts, and so I am going to run with the notion.

A Village Within a Village
    This time, we're exploring the Inner Richmond, home to many wonderful small stores and restaurants. Although there are many little areas within this village, one of the most pleasant is to be found on Clement Street, located in the area bound by Geary Boulevard on the south, California Street on the north, and between Arguello and Park Presidio Boulevards.
    Like most San Francisco neighborhoods, the Inner Richmond is short on chain stores, but long on independent businesses. Here you will find one of the cities finest used book stores, Green Apple Books, along with bakeries, cafés, bars, houseware and grocery stores, and about a gazillion restaurants. A good place to have a coffee, do a bit of shopping, and then have a lovely lunch, a late afternoon drink, or dinner.

It's a Party
    Spring is a very special time for our family. In one eight-day period, we celebrate my husband's birthday, our wedding anniversary, and my birthday. Any one of these is cause for a party, but all three at once is our excuse for an annual holiday. Of course, we check our budget before we plan anything. Some years we go all out — fancy hotel overnight stays, theater tickets, and gourmet dinners — and some years, the income stream only runs to delivery pizza and a movie rental. In fact, we've been know to have celebrations in truck stops and diners.
    This year, our "big" meal during celebration week was at the Clement Street Bar & Grill, a comfy, wood-paneled family-friendly restaurant that has been under the same ownership since 1982. Years ago, when we lived in the neighborhood, this was our "treat" restaurant after a long work week. Good drinks (very important), tasty food, and real mashed potatoes. For birthday week, we made our first visit in over 15 years — we were on a bit of a nostalgia tour.