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.
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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