The deadline to sign up for the state's health care exchange known as Covered California is midnight Sunday. Anyone who starts the process by the Sunday deadline, has until Friday, February 20th to complete the enrollment process.
"I don't have healthcare or anything like that. It can be expensive going to the doctor," said Jesus Mendoza as he sat in a San Leandro school auditorium waiting to sign up. "It'll be nice having that."
It's the first time in his adult life Mendoza will have health insurance. "I'm kinda nervous because it's the first time," he said. "Like, what if it's difficult? But they made it pretty simple."
The San Leandro sign up event was one of several across the state Sunday.
Counselors were on hand to help guide people through the sign up process. "When people can't get the care they need, that becomes a population health issue," explained Nathan Selzer, spokesman for the United Healthcare Workers. "This is about California getting healthier, staying healthier, and living longer, better lives."
"This is the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. People deserve to be healthy," Congresswoman Barbara Lee asserted at a Covered California signup event at Lake Chalet in Oakland. "They deserve to be able to go to the doctor. They deserve to be able to take care of their families without the burden and the worry of getting sick and not having any health coverage."
To the critics who have tried to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act, Lee had sharp words. "We'll have 15 to 20 million people covered. Are you going to take away their healthcare? Come on, please! Those naysayers need to get with the program."
There is a carrot and stick at work. The carrot is that people who haven't had access to health insurance now do. The stick is, anyone without health insurance after the midnight deadline faces a penalty of $325/person or 2-percent of income, whichever is greater.