I was warned. This is what kept echoing in my mind as I pressed the refresh button yet again on the Covered California website in my hopes of enrolling in an affordable health insurance plan on opening day. I started my application around 1 p.m., and by 3:15, I wasn’t even halfway through.
Cigarette butts litter a city-owned parking lot in the Park Street shopping district. Photo by Michele Ellson.
Alameda may be home to some of the toughest no-smoking rules in the country, but some are saying that the rules – which are supposed to protect the public from secondhand smoke – are failing to safeguard the public’s health as intended because they aren’t being enforced.
When Alameda High School became home to one of Alameda County’s first school-based health centers, in 1993, its arrival aroused a storm of protest.
“There were certain elements who thought it was a place to distribute condoms,” said Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, who said she led the early effort to establish a similar center at Encinal High in 1999. “But it’s much more than that.”
Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan is casting a spotlight on cuts that state lawmakers want to make to health care and social services for the county’s poor, sick, young and old. Chan held a hearing at Alameda’s Boys & Girls Club on Wednesday night intended to detail the human impact of the cuts – and to ask participants to pressure lawmakers to reconsider them.
“We live next to these folks that are impacted. We go to church with these people. We see our kids go to school with them,” said Chan, a former state lawmaker herself. “I think if people are aware of this, we can get a lot more help from people who are really devastated and really suffering right now.”
Carolyn Cover-Griffith leafs through a pile of old paycheck stubs to offer a sense of how her health care costs have increased over the past few years. In 2009, she was paying $790 a month for healthcare coverage for her family. This year, her payment for her family’s Blue Shield plan is nearly $1,200 a month.
Despite the cost, which the Alameda High School AP Environmental Science teacher said has eroded her take-home pay by more than $70 a month over the past three years, Cover-Griffith said she is staying on the district’s health care plan. She’s been battling cancer since 2006, and fears she could lose her doctors – or her coverage – if she opts for another plan.