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Uninsured get final chance to sign up for coverage

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There will be one last push to help uninsured Valley residents get insurance through either Covered California or Medi-Cal, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, 464 W. Napa St., Suite A, in Sonoma.

Individuals have to have insurance coverage by March 31 or pay a penalty.

Kathleen Bianchi-Rossi, the health center’s development director, said Saturday’s sign-up event will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

People who want to sign up under Covered California, the state’s new health insurance exchange, will need to bring various documents, including some sort of photo identification, birth certificate, pay stubs, permanent resident documents, federal tax returns and the like.

“It’s better to show up over prepared and have too much documentation,” said Bianchi-Rossi. “Some people have waited (to get insurance) until they filed this year’s taxes.”

People who are signing up for Medi-Cal need things like Social Security or some other documentation that shows they’re a legal resident.

But anyone who files needs to have birth dates for everyone enrolling, Social Security numbers, home ZIP code and proof of California residency.

The health center has been offering appointments to help people get insurance, but Bianchi-Rossi said it’s been booked solid for more than a month.

“We had a similar event on March 15, and had about 15 people show up,” she said. “But we had the capacity to see more.”

“A lot of people are waiting for the last minute (to sign up for insurance) – but now we’re at the last minute,” she added.

Bianchi-Rossi said people can sign up on their own, either through coveredca.com or by calling the toll-free number, 800-300-1506 in English or 800-3000-0213 in Spanish.

“We’re encouraging people to do it on their own,” she said. Especially since the website and the phones will probably get bogged down the closer it is to Monday.

Bianchi-Rossi said the amount of time it takes to get insurance depends on the size of a family and whether or not someone has already done their homework so they know which plan they want.

“At the March 15 event, we had a single person who had done her research and it took 20 minutes. On the other hand, in one instance, a family of six took 90 minutes,” she said.

The health center will have help from the Sonoma County Human Services Department and Americorps at Saturday’s event.

Doug Jones, an SEIU United Health Care Workers organizer, said Saturday’s event gives people one last opportunity to get insurance. He said the union will have volunteers to help.

“Counselors will talk people through their options,” he said.

There’s no fee for Saturday’s event.