Durham, N.C. — Uninsured Triangle residents said Monday that they eagerly await the overhaul of the nation's health care system.
"It's just going to be like Christmas," said DeCarlo Flythe, who lost health coverage for his family when he was laid off almost three years ago. "It's going to be great. You know, no worries (about) the bills. We are going to go ahead and pay our co-pay and be alright."
Flythe, a diabetic, said he checked into buying a policy for his family, but he couldn't afford it. He recently landed another job, but the new benefits haven't kicked in yet.
"I worry day to day, honestly," he said. "I pray to make sure my child or my wife don't' get sick because, if they go to the hospital, we are looking at a couple of thousand (dollars in bills)."
Flythe was among the patients Monday at the Walltown Clinic, a joint program of Duke University and Lincoln Community Health Center that serves the low-income neighborhoods near Duke's campus. The clinic serves 3,000 to 4,000 patients a year – 80 percent don't have health insurance – and charges co-pays based on what patients can afford.
"People will come in and say, 'I suddenly don't have a job. I've lost my insurance. Can you help me?'" said Kaity Granda, a physician's assistant at the clinic.
Norman Rucker said he hasn't had health insurance in almost 10 years because his employers haven't offered it.
"I'm not a person who gets sick a lot, so I didn't think I'd need any medicine," said Rucker, who racked up about $100,000 in hospital bills over that period by going to the emergency room whenever he needed care. "I'm trying to pay them off. Collection agencies call me all the time."
Rucker's wife has insurance, but the couple couldn't afford to put him on the policy. Now, he's excited he may also have coverage because of health care reform.
"It'll make the world better. It'll make us all better, actually," he said.