GARNER -- When Cary Hicks lost his group health insurance earlier this year, he was floored by how much an individual policy could cost him because he is a diabetic.
"I was looking for anything," said Hicks, who runs a small construction company. "I didn't have insurance. I couldn't afford any."
That's when Hicks discovered a new public health insurance program created by the legislature. He now pays $550 a month in premiums -- not cheap, but one-third of what a similar policy would have cost him in the private market.
As Congress debates how to overhaul the nation's health-care system, North Carolina has dipped its toe into the public-option debate. Those who can't find affordable health insurance from private companies because they have cancer, heart disease or other ailments now have the option of buying insurance from a high-risk pool set up by the state.
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The program, called Inclusive Health, is little known. It has enrolled 2,050, only half of the number expected. But an estimated 1.4 million North Carolinians don't have health insurance.
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