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On first day of Obamacare, local clinics start enrolling uninsured

  • Bertha Diaz, right, a Certified Applications Assistant, helps Rufina Arango and her husband Noe Maya Garcia apply for MediCal for their family at the Vista Family Health Center in Santa Rosa, California on Tuesday, October 1, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Rufina Arango and her family lost their health insurance several years ago, when her husband was laid off after 22 years working for a wood products manufacturer in Windsor.

But on Tuesday, the Rohnert Park resident joined thousands of people across California applying for health coverage on the first day of President Barack Obama's new federal health care law.

Arango, who is diabetic, filled out an application for coverage through a significant expansion of Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program. The expansion is one of two key provisions of the new law, also known as Obamacare, that could extend coverage to close to three quarters of the 70,000 people who lack health insurance in Sonoma County.

Obamacare Debuts On North Coast

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Previously, Arango paid for her medical care at at local health clinic and diabetes medications out-of-pocket on a sliding scale that was based on her family income.

“It's great, because it is going to help many of us. If not for Obamacare, many of us would not qualify for health insurance,” said Arango, who filled out her application at Vista Health Center, one of several clinics operated by the Santa Rosa Community Health Centers.

Across the North Coast, enrollment counselors helped people like Arango determine if they qualified for the newly expanded Medi—Cal program or if they should purchase subsidized coverage through state health insurance exchanges like Covered California.

There were numerous reports of glitches and slow websites Tuesday as the health exchanges launched across the country. Thousands of Californians seeking to buy their own health insurance overloaded the state's online marketplace and flooded call centers with questions.

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