Thousands with no health insurance

March 25, 2009 1:47:10 PM PDT
The unemployment spike is leading to massive numbers of uninsured in North Carolina.The latest estimates show at least 300,000 people don't have health coverage.

Wednesday, leaders of Inclusive Health - a non-profit insurance program created by the state - held an enrollment fair at WakeMed.

Click here to learn more about Inclusive Health

The plan is designed to mainly help people with pre-existing medical conditions get coverage they can afford - people like Kay Bukowski of Clayton.

"It's very frightening to come to a place where you don't know where to go next because your insurance is ending," she explained.

Bukowski's COBRA insurance runs out in June, and she's two years away from qualifying for Medicare. She was diagnosed with breast cancer last month.

"Individual carriers, as soon as they know breast cancer, well forget about that," she said.

Bukowski says private insurers either rejected her or wanted to charge three to four thousand dollars a month. She's now applying for coverage with Inclusive Health which could cut her costs in half. The non-profit health insurer created by the state is supposed to help the uninsured or hard to insure - a growing population being treated at hospitals in this recession.

"You hear the number that maybe there are 200,000 people who qualify for this in our great state. I'd say that's scratching the surface," offered Dr. Bill Atkinson, WakeMed CEO.

"When folks go to the hospitals or doctors for treatment and they don't have health insurance ultimately we all have to pay so this is a way to provide relief to everybody," said NC Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin.

The program started offering relief in January. Premium rates are capped by law. Money from a higher tax on private insurers covers the plan with a roughly 17-million dollar budget. Bukowski says she'll need all the help she can get as she battles breast cancer.

It's a very difficult situation to be in. You're so caught up with your diagnosis and your treatments to begin with you don't need that stress of having to figure out who's going to insure you," she said.

Inclusive Health says it's now getting 100 calls a day in this economy.


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