By Herb Weiner, POB Board

On Monday July 8, I went with a group of representatives from Protect Our Benefits, Retired Employees of the City and County of San Francisco, the Firefighters Union, the California Association of Retired Americans and the Service Employees International Union to talk to Superintendents about a distressing issue to us city retirees.

The issue concerned adopting Blue Shield, a flawed health plan, over United Health, a plan given a high rating by the Health Service System. Paradoxically, HSS flew in the face of their rating by adopting Blue Shield.

Because Steven Follansbee, the physician of the Board, would have voted in favor of United Health, he was surprisingly sacked from his position and replaced by Fiona Wilson who has had little, if any, experience with the HSS Board. But she did the bidding of Sean Elsbernd, voting to approve Blue Shield.

This is quite distressing.

Many physicians, accepting United Health, will not accept Blue Shield, forcing patients to seek out new doctors which can be quite difficult. While this would be difficult in the city, it can be worse in the rural areas where there are fewer physicians, forcing frail individuals to travel long distances.

We know that some of our elected officials are compassionate and not cold blooded, like some in city government, which I why I wish to express my concerns.

As seniors, we need the best medical care possible. Blue Shield denies more claims than United Health which places severely ill patients at risk. Diagnosis of severely ill patients can be delayed with the possibility of severely advanced illness or, even, death.

Landmark Health, provided by United Health, saves trips to the hospital with its sound medical advice. They are available 24/7. Blue Shield does not have this service.

And we have been falsely assured by HSS that no changes are made except the insurance card.

From my witnessing the proceedings at HSS meetings, I believe that this change of health plans has been rammed through.

The Budget and Finance Committee has not scheduled this problem for review on Wednesday.

Will the city budget be approved at the last moment without careful consideration of Blue Shield’s dangerous impact on seniors who have served the city, sometimes with severe injuries or loss of life?

Now, the changes to Blue Shield are proposed to balance the forecasted shortfall. In my opinion, city administration needs to be balanced, not the Budget.

The shortfall is a forecast, not an eventual reality. The city could have a robust economic recovery with retired city employees experiencing an inferior, even dangerous, health plan.

I am asking that the Supervisors and Mayor stand up against the stupid, evil forces that do not have city retirees at heart. Sadly, they exist in city administration, on the Board and even in various Committees. As a test of elected city’s character, you must give them battle.

If you do this, this will not be forgotten by seniors who have a long memory.

This is not an easy task but a demanding one. But, if you do this, it will underline you all as people who fought the good fight–a tribute to you as Supervisors and elected officials.

Herb Weiner
Retired Senior Social Worker
Department of Human Services
34 years