By Tracey Kaplan
SAN JOSE -- The last time Ileinna Jasso needed medical care, she went to an emergency room, emerging with a simple prescription for antibiotics -- and a $1,700 bill she couldn't afford.
So the 20-year-old Gavilan College student was happy to wait in line Saturday to sign up for affordable health coverage at Berryessa Community Center, just two days before Monday's midnight deadline.
More than 500 similar workshops to help people get their applications in on time are being held from Friday through Monday across California. Several will be held in the East Bay on Monday for those who waited until the last minute.
They're drawing droves of people.
"Turnout was like zero before this," said Dana Howard, a deputy director of Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, who attended the Berryessa event. "Friday, we had 1,000 people in Panorama City in Southern California alone.''
The line at the Berryessa center trailed all the way out to the parking lot, as about 400 people flocked to the center, many accompanied by squirming kids or aging parents.
The deluge of applications was jamming Covered California's computer system, said George Derbedrosian, a Santa Clara County medical administrator who was helping out at Berryessa.
By 1 p.m., it appeared as if it would take up to two hours with the help of an intake worker to sign up.
"We're overloading the system," Derbedrosian said. "So we switched at noon to just doing express applications, and we're making appointments with people to fully process them later."
Howard said health coverage is not available for undocumented workers or anyone who is incarcerated, the only two exclusions.
The event was coordinated by the SEIU Local 521 as part of a yearlong, $1 million grant from Covered California to do outreach.
The wait was worth it to Jasso, who had health care until two years ago when her mother, a retail clerk at T.J.Maxx, died.
"If anything were to happen, we'll be able to get a doctor," said Jasso, referring to herself, two young brothers and her father, who does landscaping for a living. The family scrapes by on about $43,000 a year.
Jasso had trouble signing up because of computer glitches on Covered Covered's site (www.CoveredCa.com), as recently as last week.
"We kept trying on the computer," she said, "but it wouldn't take our tax information."
Also waiting in line was truck driver Pedro Padilla, who put off signing up until the last minute because he works six days a week and doesn't have a computer. He said his boss gave him time off Saturday to enroll.
"I'm very happy," he said. "This is good news for me and my family."
Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.
Monday is the deadline to apply for insurance under the new health care law. If you start but can t finish your application (by 11:59 p.m., you ll have until April 15 to complete it.
Enrollment can be done:
Source: Covered California