Pat Pathammavong of Fresno is making a critical decision for his family. With the looming government deadline to get insured, Pathammavong came into Kaiser Permanente's Shop KP center at Shaw and Brawley in Northwest Fresno to get one-on-one help to choose a plan.
"That's why I came today, so we have the March 31st (deadline)," said Pathammavong. "I got information so I'm going to go back home to see my wife and discuss it."
The center is staffed with certified enrollers who can guide people through the maze of health insurance options before the March 31 deadline. iPad and computer stations are available for anyone interested in Kaiser's coverage or any other provider. Shop KP offers online access to Covered California so you can come in by appointment or walk in and compare any plan under the state's health care exchange.
Kaiser Senior Vice President Jeff Collins says many people discover they're eligible for government subsidies to help pay the cost of coverage.
"People just have lots of questions about financial assistance, how they enroll, physicians that are available in the network," said Collins.
But Collins says the most urgent concern is avoiding the penalty if you're not enrolled by March 31. For an adult, the government fine can start at $95, or 1 percent of a person's taxable income.
"So I'd rather see people not pay a penalty and apply that money to getting health coverage, than to pay a penalty and still have no health coverage," said Collins.
Pathammavong discovered he's eligible for financial assistance which could bring his coverage cost down from $900 a month to $600 -- a boost to both his health and his family's budget.
In addition to its regular weekday hours, Shop KP in Northwest Fresno will have extended hours on March 29 and 30 -- the weekend before the deadline on the 31st. Visit thrive.kaiserpermanente.org/shopkp for more information.
Covered California is also hosting enrollment clinics in several Valley cities, leading up to the deadline. Visit www.coveredca.com for more details.