Manny Crisostomo / mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

Yenny Mascareno of Kaiser Permanente explains health care options to Vishal Prasad and his son Kanyeh, 9, at a “Shop KP” store in Sacramento on Friday. Walk-in outlets are extending hours through the weekend for last-minute sign-ups.

More Information

  • Ask Emily: She's got answers to your Obamacare questions
  • Affordable Care Act sign-ups

    Where to get help before March 31 deadline

    CoveredCA.com – The state’s official website for Affordable Care Act policies has extended its weekend call center and online hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Go online or call (800) 300-1506. For county-by-county lists of weekend locations statewide, go to CoveredCA.com and click on “Events Near You.” Some are listed below.

    Weekend walk-ins in Sacramento area:

    Today: North Sacramento Hagginwood Library, 2109 Del Paso Blvd., 1 p.m.-5 p.m.; La Familia Counseling Center, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5523 34th St.; South Natomas Community Center, 2921 Truxel Road, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

    Sunday: Faith Fellowship Community Church, 5937 Watt Ave., 1 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

    SacramentoCovered.org – Walk-in help for Covered California policies and Medi-Cal policies will be available at 8928 Volunteer Lane, Suite 200, (near Highway 50 and Watt Avenue) from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday; and 6 a.m.- 9 p.m. Monday. Call (866) 850-4321.

    Monday: Covered California’s website and call centers will have extended hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

    The SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West union is hosting two “enroll-a-thons” Monday at its Sacramento office, 1911 F St., from 7 a.m. to midnight. For details, call ( 888) 920-4517.

    In addition, consumers can call a licensed insurance agent or go to health care websites, such as eHealthInsurance.com, which is also extending its call center hours through midnight Monday (800) 977-8860.

    What You’ll Need: Whether enrolling by phone, online or in person, every individual family member should have: proof of identity (photo ID, driver’s license, passport); proof of address (utility bill or postmarked mail); income information (two paystubs or recent tax return); proof of citizenship (birth certificate, permanent resident card, or naturalization certificate). Each person enrolling also must provide date of birth, Social Security number and ZIP code.

Last call for health care signups: Monday’s deadline pushing some consumers to get enrolled

Published: Friday, Mar. 28, 2014 - 11:32 pm
Last Modified: Friday, Mar. 28, 2014 - 11:46 pm

From walk-in storefronts and union halls to mall kiosks and call center hotlines, health care officials are braced for a wave of last-minute sign-ups for the Affordable Care Act, both here and nationwide. Whether it’ll be a trickle or a tsunami is anyone’s guess.

With Monday’sdeadline for enrolling in the country’s first mandatory health care program, there’s a big push this weekend in California to reach more of the estimated 7 million who were without health care when the program launched last October.

On Friday, a steady stream of potential customers visited locations where they could sign up for coverage through the state’s health care exchange, Covered California.

Vishal Prasad and his 9-year-old son were among those trying to beat the deadline.

Prasad, a single dad of two elementary-school kids, walked into a Kaiser Permanente enrollment center at Florin Towne Center. The so-called “Shop KP” store, staffed with health care agents bilingual in Hmong, Spanish and Russian, had some of its busiest days this year on Thursday and Friday.

Prasad, a truck driver, said he was there because his ex-wife recently lost her job, which had provided health care coverage for their children. At the KP store, he discovered his income was low enough to qualify for a Medi-Cal policy, which will allow him to have his own insurance coverage for the first time in five years.

“It’s the best feeling, knowing that I can get seen by a doctor if I need it – and that I can afford it,” he said.

Another walk-in, Carina Cervantes, 25, said she had passed the storefront many times on her way to the nearby Walmart, but was always too busy with her classes at California State University, Sacramento, and running a small janitorial company franchise. But Cervantes said she’d learned the hard way that going without health care has its financial risks. After a car accident last year, she was taken to an emergency room with minor injuries that resulted in a $3,000 hospital bill.

Cervantes said she tried the Covered California website three or four times but “gave up” because it either shut down or wouldn’t let her choose a plan. At the KP store, she happily discovered her $14,000 annual income entitled her to sign up for a low-income Medi-Cal policy. Those policies cannot be handled at the KP store, but consumers are directed to programs like SacramentoCovered, which handles regular and Medi-Cal plans.

Over on Fruitridge Road, at the sprawling Center for Employment Training campus, Dan Fontenot said he and the other 21 certified enrollment counselors have “easily done more than 1,000 applications” since they started seeing individuals in October, when Covered California opened for business.

Fontenot, a licensed insurance agent, predicted: “There’ll be a mad rush this weekend. Word is going to spread.”

One of those who won’t be lined up is Joseph Dorris, 30, who got onboard in January. A single dad to two young kids, Dorris said his 7-year-old son’s medical issues – severe asthma and eczema – require frequent doctor visits.

Dorris said he signed up for a Blue Shield Silver plan because it offered the doctors and treatment options he needs for his son’s conditions. “It’s cheaper, and about 85 percent of his doctors’ visits are covered,” said Dorris, operations manager for 1Solution, a foreclosure cleanup company. “It feels good.”

Last year, with an estimated 7 million uninsured Californians, the state’s exchange set a modest enrollment goal of between 487,000 and 696,000 by the March 31 deadline. As of March 14, the most recent reporting date, Covered California said 1,018,315 Californians had signed up.

As far as hitting its goals, “We’ve blown them out of the water,” said Covered California spokesman Roy Kennedy.

The numbers will doubtless continue climbing with three full days left to enroll. The state has three call centers – in Concord, Fresno and Rancho Cordova – with nearly 800 staffers, who will be working extended hours through Monday night, despite the state holiday, Cesar Chavez Day.

“It’s all hands on deck,” Kennedy said.

Earlier this year, the state’s Covered California computer system crashed several times – and was down completely for about three days at one point. After several upgrades, Kennedy said the computer system should be able to handle the expected volume this weekend, but could be sluggish at times.

Kennedy urged people to go to walk-in sites that can offer personal, face-to-face help with enrollment questions. “If someone’s not comfortable going online, we highly encourage them to ... go to these events and meet with someone in person.”

Although Monday, March 31, is the official deadline for enrolling in 2014 coverage, there is some leeway. State and federal officials announced this week that those with applications in progress before midnight Monday will have until April 15 to complete their paperwork, without facing potential tax penalties for being uninsured.

After Monday, the only health care policies available will be for certain “life events” (such as marriage, pregnancy, divorce, new baby) or for very limited, short-term policies purchased in the private marketplace. The latter do not qualify for subsidies and will not protect people from potential tax penalties, which start at $95 per person.

The next open enrollment season, for 2015 policies, will be Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015.

If you’re considering a sign-up, the earlier the better. As with last-minute income tax filers, said Kaiser spokesman Edwin Garcia, “Given procrastination, Monday could be like the line at the post office on April 15.”


Call The Bee’s Claudia Buck, (916) 321-1968. Read her Personal Finance columns at sacbee.com/claudiabuck.

Read more articles by Claudia Buck





Sacramento Bee Job listing powered by Careerbuilder.com
Quick Job Search
Sacramento Bee Jobs »
Buy
Used Cars
Dealer and private-party ads
Make:

Model:

Price Range:
to
Search within:
miles of ZIP

Advanced Search | 1982 & Older

TODAY'S CIRCULARS