The Oregon Health Experiment

The Oregon Health Experiment

The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment has received a lot of media attention with the release of research findings in the New England Journal of Medicine. This groundbreaking study marked the first time researchers could use a randomized, controlled design to evaluate the impact of Medicaid, our nation’s health care program for low-income individuals and families (called Medi-Cal in California). Of the 90,000 people signed up for Medicaid, Oregon’s underfunded program could only enroll about 30,000, forcing low-income Oregonians into a lottery system for health benefits. This effectively turned poor Oregonians into lab rats, with one group randomly chosen to enroll in Medicaid and the others left out. If that sounds…
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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love a Telco Merger.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love a Telco Merger.

As an attorney, my stock in trade is pessimism—I’ve been trained to think in terms of worst-case scenarios, search statements for dissembling and loopholes, and assume that every person, given the opportunity, will behave in as terrible a manner as possible.  It’s the kind of work that causes you to grind your teeth in your sleep, so it’s always nice to have the opportunity to be optimistic about something. Today, I get to be optimistic about the completion of the merger between T-Mobile and MetroPCS. The history of telecommunications mergers generally works like this: A large provider refuses to serve a community because “it’s not profitable,” which really means “it’s…
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A Modern Day “Literacy Test” That Threatens Our Democratic Rights

A Modern Day “Literacy Test” That Threatens Our Democratic Rights

Just 50 years ago, before the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, discrimination and intimidation tactics such as poll taxes and literacy tests were widely used to prevent voters of color from exercising their fundamental democratic rights. In California, literacy tests were specifically used to discourage Chinese and other foreign-born citizens from voting. No doubt we’ve made progress since then. For example, we now require bilingual poll workers and translated voting materials. And yet, despite the progress we’ve made, there remains the simple truth that ballot initiative petitions are still available only in English. In a state as diverse as California, that’s simply unacceptable. Earlier this week, my colleague…
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Battle Brewing in California over Climate Change Funds

The Huffington Post by: Preeti Vissa California has led the nation in attacking climate change, setting up a cap-and-trade program to charge polluters for greenhouse gas emissions, with the money going to reduce pollution and boost the clean energy economy. Now it could lead the nation in hijacking the funds for other purposes, leaving the state’s citizens disappointed and angry. This is serious, and not just for Californians. My state could be about to set a really unfortunate precedent. California, like many states, has been digging itself out of a deep financial hole. The good news is that we are digging our way out, in part because voters approved some…
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When an NBA Star Couldn’t Buy a Home in San Francisco

When an NBA Star Couldn’t Buy a Home in San Francisco

Those of us who live in the San Francisco Bay Area often like to think of this region as a bastion of enlightenment, a place where bigotry and intolerance have been largely banished. It’s easy to forget that, to the extent that this enlightened self-image is true, it’s a relatively new development. I’m reminded of this because of an item in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle (behind a paywall, alas, so no link) about basketball great Wilt Chamberlain, who played for the San Francisco Warriors in the early ‘60s. Chamberlain dominated the game like no player had done before and very few have done since, setting scoring records by the barrelful.…
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Dreams, Not Debt: The Problem With Student Loans

Dreams, Not Debt: The Problem With Student Loans

You may have heard the statistics already – student loan debt is now at $1 trillion, surpassing credit card debt! Ouch. I’ve overheard conversations and seen news articles posing the question: is this the next financial bubble to pop? Similar to Greenlining’s concerns and warnings of the foreclosure crisis in the mid-2000s, the student loan debt problem is something that we should be aware of and concerned about today for a number of reasons. While there are several culprits affecting the intersection of economic mobility and college affordability, none are as serious as student loan debt. Average undergraduate loan debt stands at $27,000, with a monthly payment of around $300…
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Bringing Language Access to the Courts

Bringing Language Access to the Courts

California is an incredibly diverse state, with 43 percent of our over 38 million residents speaking a language other than English at home. While some of those Californians speak English well, millions are still learning and have trouble conducting any sort of complex business in English. This is an issue Greenlining has tackled from many angles, from getting Pacific Gas and Electric customer bills translated into Spanish and Chinese to pushing for translation of ballot initiative petitions. We’ve made some improvements, but we’re still not close to where we need to be. One area where language access surely needs attention is our court system. If you think legalese is complicated,…
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Tell Your Story, Change the World

Tell Your Story, Change the World

I recently had a conversation with my mom about my experience in the fellowship, the issues that I’m working on, and the opportunities that I’ve been afforded since I started. She reminded me that “I am where I am, for a reason” and that it’s no accident that I am working on health policy issues. It is through conversations with my mom that I am constantly reminded of why I do this work: I am a public health advocate because I’ve experienced first-hand how health has impacted the lives of my family and me. Recently, I had the chance to tell that story in front of state legislators and the…
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Why Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Should Be the Poster Children for Universal Broadband

Why Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Should Be the Poster Children for Universal Broadband

I am a big Macklemore & Ryan Lewis fan, which I admit even though I live in Oakland and that puts me in a distinctly hipster demographic (disclaimer:  I am NOT a hipster).  Not just because their music is TIGHT, which it is, but also because the way they came up tugs at my telco nerd heartstrings.  Wha??  Read on… Rapper Ben Haggerty, known to fans as Macklemore, comes from Seattle and has had a big underground following for years.  He got big by releasing songs and albums through iTunes and videos through YouTube.  So big, in fact, that his first full-length album (with producer Ryan Lewis, as well as…
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Why Are California’s Voter Registration Rates So Low?

Why Are California’s Voter Registration Rates So Low?

California’s voter registration rate is appallingly low. We rank 45th out of 50 states, and currently have about 6 million citizens who are eligible to vote but are unregistered. Why? Some citizens don’t even know they are eligible to vote. I testified recently at the Assembly Public Safety Committee about a bill that will help solve this problem by ensuring that people with prior criminal convictions know about their right to vote. Assembly Bill 149, introduced by freshman Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), is important for voting rights, civil rights, and our public safety. Watch the clip of my testimony here. At Greenlining Institute, we are proud to co-sponsor this…
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