County Pulse

County Pulse: How to deal with abandoned homes; Covered CA takes control

kcarlson@modbee.comNovember 22, 2013 

Jardine column

This house burned within the past month, one of four recent blazes at the property on the 500 block of Kerr Avenue in Modesto’s airport neighborhood, fire officials said. Taken Tuesday, Nov. 19, as crews extinguished another fire at the back of the property.


    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
    Recent stories written by Ken

Stanislaus County’s building division could investigate the abandoned home site in Modesto’s airport neighborhood where fires have occurred at least four times in the past two months.

Jami Aggers, the county’s environmental resources director, said the county’s code enforcement unit did not have an open case on the derelict property on Kerr Avenue at Canal Street. After the most recent fire Tuesday, building officials with county Planning and Community Development were made aware of the fire-damaged house, Aggers said.

Building officials are responsible for dealing with unsafe structures. If the owner can’t be compelled to handle the cleanup, the county can demolish structures considered a danger to the public, though the annual budget is limited.

Residents near the Kerr Avenue property are afraid additional fires started by squatters could damage their homes or cause serious injury.

Canceled policies

President Barack Obama suggested again last week that people who like their health plans should be allowed to keep them for another year. But that didn’t mean that state leaders in California were required to implement the promise.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said he supported the president’s proposal for a one-year transition for the more than 1 million consumers who hold policies that don’t meet the new federal guidelines.

Instead of a Dec. 31 cancellation of policies that don’t meet the new federal standards, Jones said he wanted insurers to give policyholders the option to renew their plans for 12 months. But the decision came down to the five-member Covered California board, which chose not to release major health insurers from contract obligations to cancel those policies.

According to a quick archive search, the name “Covered California” first appeared in The Modesto Bee last Dec. 28, and, since then, the public entity has taken control of the insurance marketplace in the Golden State. Only a few months ago, it was generally understood that Covered California was an outlet for the uninsured to shop for affordable coverage and was a possible option for higher-earning middle-class families who aren’t eligible for subsidies.

It’s now clear that not much is available outside the exchange for people who buy their own insurance. Most health insurance sold in the state rigidly conforms with the Covered California plans. Health care has become an intensely emotional consumer issue, with people managing their health by scouring the Internet for information and searching for hospitals with low infection rates. State and national leaders are hearing outrage because savvy consumers don’t like the cost increases and limited choices.

Clicking the “About Us” tab for Covered California shows its five-member board is appointed by the governor and Legislature. To be more precise, the governor appoints two members, one is chosen by the Senate Rules Committee, one is chosen by the Assembly speaker and the other seat is filled by the secretary of Health and Human Services or a designee.

The current board members are some of the state’s top health experts: Kimberly Belshe, Diana Dooley, Paul Fearer, Susan Kennedy and Dr. Robert Ross.

The health care overhaul is supposed to correct serious injustices in the health system, in which people with health conditions have been denied coverage. It’s expected to add $1 trillion to the national debt over 10 years, and only now are consumers starting to understand the more immediate costs to themselves and their families.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or (209) 578-2321.

Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service