Cary, N.C. — Don Corne has had severe intestinal problems for weeks, but he cannot afford to see a doctor about it.
Corne, a contractor in the maintenance and operations division of the Wake County Public School System, is among the more than 21 percent of adults in North Carolina who don't have health insurance.
"Here I sit with something that needs to be dealt with or diagnosed, and if you don't have this ticket called insurance or you don't have a lot of money, then you can't find out," he said.
As a contractor, Corne doesn't get insurance through the school district – or the temporary employment agency that placed him in the job.
An individual insurance policy is out of reach, he said, and he also doesn't qualify for programs for uninsured people, such as Alliance Medical Ministry in Raleigh or assistance offered through the state Department of Health and Human Services, because of his income level.
"Premiums I've gotten (quotes on) are anywhere from $300 to $400 a month, and that's just so expensive. I can't afford that," he said of individual coverage.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina recently began pitching a "budget-friendly" version of its individual health plan, which officials said could save people up to 38 percent on their monthly premium.
Under the health care reform law, anyone who can afford health insurance must purchase it by 2014 or pay a fee. Tax credits will kick in that year to make it easier for people to buy insurance, and those who cannot afford it might be eligible for an exemption.
Although the law aims to eliminate waste and improve efficiency in the system to help drive down insurance rates, it doesn't help Corne with his current dilemma.
He paid $49 to go to a clinic in Apex, where he was told he needed to see a gastroenterologist for a proper diagnosis. That visit would likely cost about $1,500, he was told.
Instead, he has come up with his own prescription of probiotics and vitamins, and he has started looking for a job that provides health benefits.
"I think what I realize in all of this is my life has a price tag," he said.