DURHAM, N.C. – Memorial vigils were held across North Carolina last week to honor people who have suffered or died because they lacked health insurance. Creston resident Richard Horodyski said until last year, he hadn’t seen a doctor in more than two decades.
Horodyski has worked in construction and owns a small fruit farm. He and his wife are long-time foster parents. He said many foster parents are caring for children with special needs, while not being able to see a doctor themselves.
“It’s a stressful thing, especially when you’re working with kids with developmental disabilities. That was who we specialized in,” Horodyski said. “After awhile, we realized that a lot of the children we were getting had fetal alcohol syndrome, so we kind of specialized in that. It was really, really hard.”
North Carolina is one of 14 states that have chosen not to accept federal dollars for Medicaid expansion. It’s estimated that nearly a half million people, mostly uninsured adults, would become eligible for coverage if the state chose to expand the program.
As of 2015, North Carolina had more than 10,000 children in foster care, and the state is struggling to recruit foster parents. There is little data available on the number of foster parents who lack health coverage, but Horodyski thinks having health insurance might make more people inclined to take on the responsibility of raising children.
“You can go county by county and see the demand. They are begging for foster parents and they’re trying to do trainings to focus on pulling foster parents into the system,” he said.
An estimated 11% of North Carolinians are uninsured, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Among adults ages 19-64, an estimated 16% are uninsured.