Arts and Entertainment
You don't have to be rich to get decent medical care.
By Tali Woodward
BEING UNINSURED CAN be frightening, particularly when an unexpected health problem crops up.
When you need immediate medical attention, the best way to get low-cost care is to visit a health clinic. San Francisco is fortunate to have a number of well-established clinics, both independent and city-run.
If you're after some security and have the money, health insurance is generally a better way to go. You can call insurance companies such as BlueCross to inquire about plans, but it's often easier to go through a union or association, many of which offer other perks. The National Writer's Union, for instance, offers libel insurance, a job hotline, and press passes.
Here are resources to limit the headaches that so often come with trying to find health care. Unless otherwise indicated, the hours listed are the hours the clinic is open. Some clinics have explicit appointment and drop-in hours; otherwise it's a good idea to call ahead. First-time patients sometimes need to register before being seen.
San Francisco's Community Health Network provides everything from urgent care at San Francisco General Hospital to regular checkups at neighborhood clinics. It encompasses 18 primary-care sites throughout the city. Most sites are open Monday through Friday. For more information call (415) 206-8000 or go to www.dph.sf.ca.us/chn.
There are also a number of independent clinics in the city that offer free or low-cost health care.
Cole Street Clinic is designed for teens and the health issues they face. It provides medical, psych, and family-planning services as well as pediatric care. Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (drop-in clinic, Thurs., 2-7 p.m.), 555 Cole, S.F. Free or low cost. (415) 751-8181, www.huckleberryyouth.org/cole.html.
Glide Health Clinic offers primary care, STD testing, and mental health services. Primary-care hours Mon.-Tues. and Thurs., 1-5 p.m.; Wed., 9 a.m.-1 p.m., 330 Ellis, Fourth floor, S.F. Free. (415) 674-6140, www.glide.org/ourwork/health.asp.
Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic provides primary care, HIV care, HIV testing, and alternative care such as acupuncture. Mon., 1-9 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m., 558 Clayton, S.F. Free. (415) 487-5632, www.hafmc.org.
Lyon-Martin Women's Health Services, which was founded in 1979 by lesbian activists, offers primary care, annual exams, and STD testing. Mon.-Tues. and Thurs.-Fri., 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Wed., 8:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. (drop-in clinic Mon. and Thurs., 1-3 p.m.; Tues., 8:30-10:30 a.m.), 1748 Market St., Suite 201, S.F. Free or low cost. (415) 565-7667.
Mission Health Services focuses on primary care and pediatrics. The clinic also provides X rays, labs tests, and a pharmacy. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-5 p.m., 240 Shotwell, S.F. Sliding scale. (415) 552-3870.
Native American Health Center is a general family-practice clinic that also provides mental health services, dental care, and diabetes care. About 70 percent of the center's patients are Native American. Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (by appointment only), 160 Capp, S.F. Sliding scale. (415) 621-8051 (medical), (415) 621-4371 (mental health), or (415) 621-8056 (dental).
San Francisco Free Clinic offers primary care, preventative care, and pediatrics and family-planning services exclusively to the uninsured. Mon.-Fri., 1-4:30 p.m. (by appointment only), 4900 California, S.F. Free. (415) 750-9894, www.sffc.org.
St. Antony's Free Medical Clinic provides basic family care to uninsured people under 55. Mon.-Tues. and Thurs.-Fri., 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Wed., 8 a.m.-noon (drop-ins welcome), 105-107 Golden Gate, S.F. Free. (415) 241 8320.
South of Market Health Center offers podiatry and limited mental health services in addition to primary care. For urgent care show up Mon.-Thurs., 8 a.m.; Mon.-Tues. or Thurs., noon; otherwise, call for an appointment, 551 Minna, S.F. Sliding scale. (415)-626-2951.
Women's Community Clinic is staffed by volunteers who provide gynecology care and family-planning services. The clinic also offers drop-in, confidential HIV testing. Mon. and Wed.-Thurs., 5-9 p.m.; Tues., 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; some Saturdays, 2166 Hayes, Suite 104, S.F. Free. (415) 379-7800.
Regular cleanings, orthodontics, and more serious care are available at area dental schools, and they charge about one-third less than ordinary dental offices do.
UC San Francisco School of Dentistry has an emergency clinic. Mon.-Fri., drop-in registration 8-9 a.m. and 1-2 p.m., 707 Parnassus, S.F. $28 and up. (415) 476-1891, dentistry.ucsf.edu.
University of the Pacific School of Dentistry has a main clinic that takes drop-ins and several specialty clinics that require appointments. Main clinic drop-in registration 8:30-9:30 a.m. and 1:30-2:30 p.m.; evening appointments Mon. and Thurs., 5:30-8:30 p.m., 2155 Webster, S.F. (415) 929-6500, www.dental.uop.edu.
Resources and associations
Actors' Fund has a lot of good information on its Web site, including lists of state resources as well as unions and associations that offer health plans to writers, actors, dancers, and visual artists. 729 Seventh Ave., 10th floor, New York, NY 10019. 1-800-798-8447, www.actorsfund.org/ahirc.
National Association for the Self-Employed will give you information about health plans you qualify for after you fill out the group's online questionnaire. NASE also offers access to health plans as well as things like auto insurance and credit management. 2121 Precinct Line Road, Hurst, TX 76054. 1-800-232 6273, www.nase.org.
California Consumer Health Care Council helps patients who are denied care or overbilled for care. The all-volunteer CCHCC works with insured and uninsured people and does not charge for basic assistance. P.O. Box 590307, San Francisco, CA 94159-0307. 1-888-225-2686 or (510) 419 0757, www.cchcc.org.
National Writers Union is reorganizing its health insurance coverage but intends to continue offering health plans to fiction writers, tech writers, and journalists. Bay Area Local 3, 337 17th St., Suite 101, Oakland, CA 94612. (510) 839 1248, www.unionwriters.org.
San Francisco Dental Society is a good resource for finding a dentist. 2143 Lombard, S.F. (415) 928-7337, www.sfds.org.