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Originally published March 15, 2014 at 5:56 PM | Page modified March 15, 2014 at 8:06 PM

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Uninsured urged to sign up for coverage as deadline nears

With the enrollment period to get health insurance drawing to a close, the county health department is reaching out to community groups, such as the Urban League, to continue to help the uninsured get coverage.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Chris Forte knew about the financial penalty many will face if they don’t get health-insurance coverage by March 31.

But the 21-year-old, barista kept putting off the task. Signing up through the Washington Healthplanfinder website seemed complicated.

With the deadline a little more than two weeks away, Forte’s girlfriend encouraged him to visit the Miller Community Center on Capitol Hill on Saturday, where Public Health — Seattle & King County partnered with the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle to help people obtain coverage through the state’s new exchange, created for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“For me, I knew I had to get covered eventually,” said Forte, skateboard under his arm, after getting registered for coverage.

With the enrollment period drawing to a close, the county health department is reaching out to community groups, such as the Urban League, to continue to reach out to the uninsured.

Young people, as well as minorities, are less likely to have coverage than the population as a whole.

What’s more, the effort to encourage sign-ups doesn’t end March 31.

Enrollment in Medicaid will continue after the ACA deadline passes. And the next open enrollment for the health exchange begins next fall.

The county health department has hosted several sign-up fairs in the last few months. It has refined its approach over time, partnering with groups that focus on populations with high uninsured rates.

The partnerships have been effective in spreading the word, according to the county, and giving those groups expertise for the next enrollment period.

“We have to have broad partnerships to sustain this over time,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine, who met with the Urban League Young Professionals group at the session.

As of March 6, nearly 447,000 people had signed up for insurance through Washington’s exchange, including 126,200 in King County, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County.

At Saturday’s event, an additional 90 people enrolled, according to health-department spokesman Keith Seinfeld.

Jay Greene: 206-464-2231 or Twitter: iamjaygreene

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