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Californians Get Help Signing Up For Health Insurance Before Feb. 15 Deadline

Eric Risberg / AP

In this photo taken Monday March 31, 2014, applicants are given instructions how to check in for a health care enrollment event at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center in Oakland, Calif.

Eric Risberg / AP

At Highlands High School in North Sacramento, 32 families have trickled in during the first couple of hours of this enrollment event.

Jondie Hare works in the school district cafeteria. She says her job-based coverage for herself and her sons costs $600 a month. She's looking for something less expensive.

“I need more money every month and they take a lot out of my paycheck. I’m single and I need as much as I can get,” she says.

Teachers for Healthy Kids help organize the event. It says people seeking sign-up have been part-time workers, older couples in their 50s, or people looking to re-enroll in Medi-Cal.

“We’ve found that schools are places that parents trust, and it’s one of the places that we’ve been very successful in enrolling families in no or low cost health insurance,” says Hellan Roth Dowden, Project Manager with Teachers for Healthy Kids.

Dowden says flyers for the enrollment event went home in kids' backpack and parents got robocalls.

But insurance agent John Navarro says more marketing may have been needed to bring people out to events like this.

 “Compared to last year, we had a lot more enrollees. We’re hoping that things will increase in the end,” Navarro says.

Navarro says during last year's open enrollment period, he signed up more than 200 people. This year, his sign-ups are down 60 percent.

Dowden of Teachers for Healthy Kids says it's not as easy to sign people up this year.

“Now we’re hitting people who are maybe a little bit harder to reach. And so the outreach activities are more targeted to those communities where we know that we need to make a little extra effort.”

Covered California says more than 350,000 people have selected a health plan so far.

People who get help signing up before the Sunday deadline will have until February 20 to finish their applications.