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Change Of Heart Could Equal Millions For San Diego

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Aired 4/29/11

A change of heart by city leaders could result in millions of federal dollars for San Diego.

— San Diego has decided it will apply after all for federal funds to help cover the health-care costs of retirees who are still too young for Medicare. A total of $5 billion is up for grabs nationwide. The city had initially decided not to pursue the money because it said the program conflicts with San Diego’s goal of reducing retiree health-care costs.

But Councilman Todd Gloria wrote a memo to the mayor’s office asking staff to reconsider. In a response, San Diego’s Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone said the city would go after the money. Goldstone said changes made in the program requirements eased the city’s concerns.

Gloria said San Diego could get about $2 million, but nothing’s guaranteed.

“It is a competitive process. It’s not necessarily a lock that we will get these funds,” he said. “But, you can’t win if you don’t play, as they say for the lottery.”

Gloria said the federal money would be quite helpful to a city trying to close a $57-million deficit.

Locally, organizations including SDG&E, the San Diego Unified Port District and county retirement system have applied for funds. The Cities of Escondido, Sacramento and Santa Barbara are among those taking part. So far, California has received a total of about $112 million from the federal program.

But San Diego is facing a tight deadline. Applications for the federal program close May 5. The program will end in 2014. That’s when health-care exchanges are expected to be available to provide more coverage options.

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