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The Grid 

Wednesday, Sep 18 1996
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Waiting for Willie at the YGC
More than three weeks have elapsed since the panel that oversees juvenile probation officers screened candidates for the interim post of chief juvenile probation officer. And Mayor Willie Brown has yet to choose from among the finalists.

The lag time has sparked speculation that Brown is dissatisfied with the list prepared by the civilian Juvenile Probation Commission, led by S.F. attorney Charles Breyer. Notably absent was Brown's friend, Rudy Smith, a veteran Bay Area probation officer. (Smith is currently acting chief.)

Knowledgeable sources say one finalist who does have commission President Breyer's blessing is Deputy City Attorney Lori Giorgi, a former Latino Democratic Club president. She steered the Probation Department through its recently concluded legal battle with S.F.'s Youth Law Center, which ended in a draw. The national advocacy group sued S.F. over deplorable confinement conditions at the city's juvenile hall, called the Youth Guidance Center (YGC).

The juvenile probation chief, by the way, is who pretty much decides which kids walk pending trial and which stay in the slam.

It's hard to imagine Brown would allow this apparent standoff to mar his relationship with a marquee player like Breyer. The brother of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Charles offers the mayor credibility that could help blunt problems in probation politics down the line.

The AFDCs of Medi-Cal
In the wake of the August public health summit, the biggest development on S.F.'s health-care-reform front has arrived -- and nobody's paid it much notice.

On Aug. 14, the San Francisco Health Authority, following state mandates, gained Department of Corporations approval for the city to run a nonprofit health maintenance organization (HMO), called San Francisco Health Plan (SFHP). That milestone means the state is a step away from mailing letters to 50,000 of S.F.'s poorest residents to inform them that Medi-Cal, the state medical insurance program for the indigent, has been ended as they know it.

The letters will direct S.F.'s entire Aid to Families with Dependent Children caseload to sign up with either SFHP or the private HMO California Care, operated by Blue Cross of California. People who don't make a selection will have the decision made for them. Henceforth, welfare families will obtain medical care via the same "preferred provider" system commonplace for people receiving health benefits on the job.

"It will basically be transparent to medical patients," says S.F. Supervisor Susan Leal, who is also a member of SFHP's governing board. (By transparent, Leal means welfare families generally will be able to see the same physicians they have seen in the past, because most of those doctors are now part of SFHP's network.)

What remains to be seen, however, is whether the $88.13 a month the state offers to pay for each person enrolled in the plan will be enough to keep S.F. doctors in the system. In New York state, where a similar experiment is under way in Westchester County, HMOs receive $191 per month to share with their network doctors.

Merger Misgivings
In yet another foray into health care, San Francisco officially jumped into the proposed merger of the University of California at San Francisco and Stanford University medical centers last week. Legally, the city has no say in whether the two merge or not. But following an oft-heated debate among UCSF administrators, labor leaders, and Supervisors Sue Bierman and Amos Brown, the Board of Supervisors' Housing and Land Use Subcommittee sent a resolution opposing the merger to the entire board for vote on Sept. 23.

There's reason to believe the supervisors will stand together in opposition -- UCSF performed more than $60 million in unreimbursed medical services in the city last year alone. Any scaling back on that from the new, private entity created by the merger will fall directly into S.F.'s lap.

Further, UCSF is the city's second-largest employer, after the city itself. And although the university predicts a loss of only 5 percent of jobs during the first two years, labor leaders see a much gloomier picture after services are consolidated.

Banking on Hallinan
DA Terence Hallinan has had the last laugh on one point of contention with his detractors on the editorial staff of "Northern California's Largest Newspaper."

The Chronicle ripped Hallinan on its editorial pages on Jan. 2 for having the gall to make a post-election pitch for political contributions from assistant district attorneys -- even before being sworn into office.

"Hallinan's cup-rattling ... appears ... insulting and even threatening," the Chron opined.

Maybe. But it sure was effective. Hallinan's latest filing shows 61 prosecutors -- about half the DA's force -- and four investigators wrote checks to the Hallinan for DA fund, ranging from $100 to the legal maximum of $600 for the combined general and runoff elections.

Staff writer Lisa Davis contributed to "The Grid.

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George Cothran

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Chuck Finnie

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