Monterey County

Health care signups on the rise before Monday's deadline

Central Coast insurance company forced to open its doors on Saturday

Deadline looms to sign up for health insurance

SALINAS, Calif. - With the deadline to sign up for Covered California looming, one local insurance company opened its doors Saturday.

"It's been very busy, I've had 28 appointments in the last week," said Randy Pierson of Pierson & Associates.

Pierson has been helping people sign up for health coverage free of charge.

"I don't feel like I am an ignorant person but it was very hard to understand," said Jennifer Smyth, who's been going through a tough divorce, which slipped her health care right out from under her.

"It's really very frightening not knowing if I was going to have health care or not," she said.

Step by step, Pierson walked Smyth through the Covered California website.

"Based on your income, I can tell that you are going to be eligible for Medi-Cal," Pierson told her.

Medi-Cal insurance for low-income people has no deadline. You can sign up any time, but if you don't meet the income threshold, you have until midnight on Monday to get covered.

If you finish part of the application, the first three screens, online before March 31, you are allowed a two-week extension to pick your plan. If you miss the deadline for open enrollment, you can only get coverage if you have a life-altering event such as getting married, having a child or permanently moving to a new area that has different health plan options.

Pierson said the website has been picking up the pace on the weekends. Because of that, Smyth was squared away.

"I am just thankful that I can have health care," Smyth said, fighting back tears.

Starting from scratch to getting health care, Smyth is one less uninsured Californian from the list of millions.

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