(CBS SF) — Residents who want health insurance through Covered California can start signing up for the service on Saturday, San Mateo County officials said Thursday.

The deadline to begin coverage on Jan. 15, 2015, is Dec. 15, which is also the deadline to renew or change existing Covered California health insurance and maintain continuous coverage and avoid paying a tax penalty, according to state officials.

The deadline to enroll in Covered California health coverage in 2015 is Feb. 15, 2015, which is also the deadline to apply for financial assistance.

State officials, led by Covered California executive director Peter Lee, embarked on a 21-city bus tour, which began on Monday, to spread the word about the opportunity for residents to sign up for affordable health insurance.

The statewide tour is scheduled to take place during the week leading up to open enrollment — a three-month window of time from Saturday to Feb. 15 when Californians who need insurance cannot be turned away by health insurance companies and when many residents could qualify for federal subsidies to help pay for their coverage.

“In communities of all sizes in our state, we will share the stories of real people who have benefited from the care and coverage they have obtained and encourage those without insurance to get covered,” Lee said in a statement.

Preliminary enrollment numbers indicated more than 625,000 California residents signed up for health insurance through Covered California during the 2013 enrollment period. Of those, roughly a quarter, or 163,512 consumers, in the San Francisco Bay Area enrolled in health insurance plans.

“We’re encouraged by the outpouring of interest and participation in the state insurance exchange,” Lee said.

The San Mateo County Health System was one of four communities to receive $300,000 in Navigator Grant Program funding to help raise public awareness, motivate, and connect county residents to health care coverage.

Residents in San Mateo County can get in-person assistance at eight locations across the county during business hours and some evenings and Saturdays, county officials said.

Some of the grant funding will also help provide cultural and linguistic support to residents who need to enroll in health care coverage.

“Our partnerships with trusted, community-based organizations will help every uninsured resident gain access to quality, affordable health insurance,” said Srija Srinivasan, San Mateo County Health System Director of Strategic Operations. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to be in good health and have peace of mind that they are financially covered when they need it the most.”

Of the residents who signed up for health insurance, about 85 percent received some form of subsidy, state officials said. Most consumers, or 61 percent, signed up for the “Silver plan,” the second lowest cost of the four plans.

Anthem Blue Cross of California, Blue Shield of California, Kaiser Permanente and Health Net accounted for 96 percent of the total enrollment plans, state officials said.

Visit http://coveredca.com/ for more information.

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