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Letters for the Week of March 18, 2015

Readers sound off on the true nature of skateboarding, the Peralta Colleges, and local sports teams.

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Anthony Moore, Richmond


"The Battle Over Teachers' Seniority Rights," News, 2/25

Oakland Needs to Be More Teacher-Friendly

We had a system in place that respected seniority while allowing sites to find good fits. It was called mutual matching, and it was a sort of job fair in which consolidated teachers came to meet with representatives from schools with openings. I have never personally heard of seniority making a bad match — teachers seek schools that suit them. With multiple unfilled openings each year and a 70 percent turnover every five years, let's make Oakland a more teacher-friendly place to work, and that starts with school board member Jody London being a little more teacher-friendly!

Meg Ruth King, Oakland


"A Place at the Table," Dining Review, 2/25


It's Bliss

I had a delicious meatloaf sandwich and green salad for lunch at Communite Table there week. Very relaxed and an un-fussy vibe with a Nina Simone album playing in the background. Bliss!

Deborah Lindsay, Oakland


"The Tipping Point," Feature, 2/18

Why Didn't You Talk to the Workers?

I wish waiters and waitress would have their time in the sun in this paper! Why are only restaurant owners being interviewed for these articles? Let's hear from the people who are working for minimum wage (busboys, dishwashers, line cooks, etc.)! Also, one of the reasons to work as a waitress is for the tips! Why would we do it otherwise? In all the restaurants I have ever worked in, a percentage of tips went to the busboys, dishwashers, and cooks. Why isn't that standard practice?

Nadja Lazansky, Berkeley


Miscellaneous Letters

The Unintended Consequences of Obamacare

The public dialogue about the merits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its value to the lives of Americans has varied widely. One side of the debate contends that it kills jobs, is an invasion of privacy, and represents an example of governmental overreach. Meanwhile, architects of the law and its supporters sing its praises based on the belief that affordable healthcare is a right of every American. I share this view. But I'm also outraged by the prospect of being saddled with a bill from Covered California for services that I neither needed nor used.

My wife and I have a two-year-old son. We both supported the ACA long before we ever thought we'd need it. We believe that equitable access to healthcare is a fundamental right. Ironically, due to a corporate restructuring, in March of 2014, we found ourselves needing affordable insurance. Thankfully, there was Covered California [the state's version of ACA]. To continue our care at Kaiser Permanente, I enrolled my family in Covered California while I transitioned jobs. The enrollment process was fairly painless, and I paid the Kaiser Family Foundation for coverage through the state exchange for April, May, and June. As healthy people, we had no significant medical visits during this time, outside of general wellness visits or a previously scheduled visit to the pediatrician for our then sixteen-month-old.

In May of 2014, I secured employer-sponsored insurance that was to begin on July 1, 2014. As such, I contacted Kaiser Member Services in June to cancel the Covered California Plan. Kaiser indicated they could not cancel the plan. Rather, I would need to directly contact Covered California, which could then give authorization for the cancellation. But it was impossible to reach anyone. So I called again. Then again. And again. After several months, still nothing. The call hold times were interminable. I called mornings and midday. I called in the afternoon. I called from my mobile phone, from our home phone, from my office. Still, no luck. After a recorded message indicating that someone would be with me shortly, either the line would disconnect or I would be on hold for so long that I'd simply give up. It was exhausting. After several months, I turned my attention to the original enrollment counselor. After corresponding via email, she stated that she "did not have authority to cancel it." My wife and I spent several more months calling. Then finally on November 26, 2014, after five months of calls and email, I reached a live person. You can imagine the relief I felt given the emotional investment and concern over months of mounting invoices for a plan that I neither needed nor used. I was told I'd be able to cancel the plan. The representative indicated that there were limitations to the current system that precluded her from backdating the cancellation but based on general public confusion and longer-than-average wait times, that I could rest assured that the plan would be cancelled and the bills rescinded.

Per her request, I authored a paragraph that summarized my circumstances and asked for a phone hearing that I submitted via fax to Covered California. That hearing was scheduled for Tuesday March 10, 2015 at 10:45 a.m. In the call, I was asked whether I'd received correspondence from Covered California outlining its position. I had not. After taking a few minutes to sift through my junk email, I was able to retrieve it. Dated Monday March 9, 2015 at 1:22 p.m., it was sent less than 24 hours before the hearing and read, in part: "You have requested that the cancellation date be made retro-active to 6/30/14. Unfortunately, I am unable to assist you with this request. All cancellations are processed on the day the consumer makes this request by contacting the Covered CA Service Center. I do understand that it may have been difficult to reach a representative at times, but there were many opportunities to have this completed since you obtained employer coverage on 7/1/14... ."

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