Community Health


Uninsured? Here Are Alternative Options for Medical Care

By Emily Bazar, CHCF Center for Health Reporting

Millions of still Californians remain uninsured, either by choice or immigration status. (Getty Images)

Millions of still Californians remain uninsured, either by choice or immigration status. (Getty Images)

About 5 million Californians have new health coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), both through the Covered California health insurance exchange and the expansion of Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program for low-income residents.

But millions of others remain uninsured – by circumstance or by choice.

Up to half of California’s uninsured population is made up of immigrants who are not in the country legally, and therefore are excluded from health insurance exchanges, tax credits and most Medi-Cal coverage. Others can’t afford coverage (even if it’s subsidized), choose not to buy insurance, or are unaware that they qualify for free or subsidized insurance.

No matter who they are or what their circumstances, they get sick, too.

Q: I’m uninsured but need medical care. What are my options?

A: It’s hard to pin down exactly how many Californians remain uninsured, but Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, believes there are roughly 3 million of you.

The good news is that more than a third of you are actually eligible for coverage, either Medi-Cal or subsidized insurance through Covered California, says Laurel Lucia, an ACA expert at UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.

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Clues to Dementia Often Missed in Vulnerable Older Adults


Dr. Anna Chodos, a UCSF geriatrician, has worked with many seniors who lived in dangerous situations due to lack of awareness and early screening for dementia. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: As Californians live longer, the number of dementia, a disease that destroys not only memory but also critical-thinking skills will grow. As part of our ongoing series on health, called Vital Signs, we hear from Anna Chodos, a physician specializing in geriatrics. She says that social services can often keep people with dementia safe in their homes, but many older adults aren’t getting the diagnosis they need. 

By Anna Chodos

To diagnosis [dementia] early is to give people a chance to be a part of planning for the future in a very meaningful way. And that’s exactly what I’m not seeing. I’m seeing people stuck in situations where they now don’t have the ability to engage with you in complicated decision making and they’re not making safe decisions for themselves.

Dementia can affect your ability to remember to pay bills. It affects your ability to comply with your medical plan. Continue reading

For Students with Disabilities, Getting to Class is Tough


UC Santa Cruz senior, Ariana Rojas, opens a door to a campus building. Rojas is the president of Disability Alliance, a student group pushing to get automatic door switches installed on doors throughout campus to make entrances like this one accessible to students with disabilities. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: For students with disabilities, getting to class can be a hurdle, especially when the school campus spans dramatic elevation changes. As part of our first-person series called Vital Signs, this month we explore how the environment affects health. UC Santa Cruz senior, Ariana Rojas talks about her experience navigating her unique campus. A car accident when she was younger left her with arthritis and chronic pain that limit her ability to climb stairs and even to walk without pain.

By Ariana Rojas

Imagine a lot of buildings in the middle of the forest. And like the mountains, there’s uphills and downhills and those hills can get very steep.

Freshman year, I would force myself to get up in the morning. [I would say to myself,] ‘Go, let’s go. You can do it. We can walk up these hills.’

When I would reach the very end, I would be in terrible pain.

I couldn’t bear the idea of relying on the Disability Van Service on campus. It just wasn’t helping me out. At times, I would find myself having to wait an additional 15 minutes into my class. [I would think to myself,] ‘Okay, I’m late. I’m late.’ You don’t feel independent. Continue reading

Traditional Healer Treats Body and Mind

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Juana Gomez (right) is a traditional Mixteca healer from Mexico. She lives with her daughter, Johanna Gomez (left), in Madera, Calif. and provides health care to many farm workers. (Sasha Khokha/KQED)

Editor’s Note: Some recent immigrants avoid visits to western doctors. Instead, they call on traditional healers who speak their language, use familiar medicinal plants, and share their cultures. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” we hear from Juana Gomez, a Mixteca traditional healer from Oaxaca, Mexico. Gomez now lives in Madera, in California’s Central Valley, where many of her patients are undocumented farm workers. Her daughter, Johanna Gomez, translates her story. Reporter: Sasha Khokha

By Juana Gomez

We have the purple basil and we have the green basil. The basil is a very, very sacred plant from my ancestors.

It’s very important to know the classification of each plant because even though they are plants and they are natural and they have healing powers, they work just as medicine and you have to be really careful with them.

My mom says that the most she sees here are males that work on the fields. She says that it is very common for them to come because it’s a combination of not being able to have a restroom close enough, it’s a combination of the heat, the long hours that they’re sitting, the vibration of the tractors. So, there are many, many factors.

Most of the people that come do have physical illness, but many times they are not sick with the physical illness. They are more sick of a spiritual need because of the sadness of leaving their people behind.  Maybe they left their wife and their kids over in their native countries. Continue reading

More Than a Haircut — Get a Health Check Up Too

By Marnette Federis

Center Stage Salon Oakland's Lakeshore District hosted a health screening event for The Black Barbershop Program. (Photo: Marnette Federis)

Chris Holiday of Oakland has his blood pressure checked at Center Stage Salon in Oakland's Lakeshore District. The salon hosted a health screening as part of The Black Barbershop Program. (Photo: Marnette Federis)

Oakland’s Center Stage Salon was buzzing like any other busy Saturday morning last weekend. But salon clients weren’t there just to get haircuts. They also lined up to get their blood pressure and glucose levels checked.

It was all part of a nationwide effort — The Black Barbershop Program. The goal was to screen African American men for high blood pressure and diabetes by going to the place where you would easily find them – at the barbershop. The screenings are free and volunteers also gave out health information.

“I’d like to live a hundred years,” said James Fulbright, one of the hairstylists at the salon who was screened for high blood pressure and diabetes. “So I just try to keep myself healthy and I needed to be checked.”

According to program organizers, African American men suffer worse health outcomes compared to other racial groups. For starters, 40 percent of black men die prematurely from heart disease compared to 21 percent of white men.

Program organizers say African American men face a number of barriers and access issues when it comes to health including lack of affordable services, poor health education and insufficient services that cater to black men. Continue reading