Free health care enrollment fair held in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

With the end of March right around the corner, you can expect to see more open enrollment fairs throughout the Valley.

"We encourage everybody to be here. It's very important that we all get insurance especially in this country," said Griselda Santare, with SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West.

Hundreds of people got the chance at McLane High School to ask questions about how to sign up for health coverage and get help enrolling in Medi-Cal or Covered California.

Organizers are now seeing a spike in people signing up for insurance. Those who don't have any health plan come March 31 may face a penalty on their 2014 tax return. But getting people signed up hasn't been easy.

"Unfortunately they are not well-informed," said Santare. "They are scared; they think it's too expensive; they think it doesn't work; they think it's just a waste of time."

Social workers told people once enrolled, they can expect to pay a lot less for medical care.

"We are trying to hit all the different high schools so we can get to that population and come to them instead of them coming to our sites because we know transportation could be an issue," said Lizeth Lopez, with Clinica Sierra Vista.

Many at Saturday's event haven't had insurance for years because their jobs never provided a plan.

"Everybody I've worked for never offered it," said Fresno resident Jesse Chavez. "I've always been in construction all my life. Most construction people don't have any insurance at all, and that's just the way it is."

Others just couldn't afford doctors' bills. They told Action News that once they're signed up and approved, they're getting checked up immediately.

"My husband stopped working four years ago -- he got into a car accident, and I have been his care provider, and I have been neglecting myself," said Fresno resident Lydia Rasmussen. "I am a healthy woman, but at this age you start having problems. My shoulders are killing me for the last two years."

Another free health care enrollment fair is scheduled for Saturday, March 15, at Roosevelt High School, which is located at 4250 E. Tulare St. in Fresno. The event will run from 8 a.m. to noon.

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