CHAPEL HILL- For Chapel Hill resident James Haley, no dollar goes wasted as he saves up for grad school.
Every coupon counts for the 27-year-old.
"Just not making a lot at this moment working part time," he said. For nearly a year, he could not afford health insurance. He said, "I'm going to go bankrupt if I have an injury without insurance." Recently, he found a plan for $23 a month through the Affordable Care Act. "To me that's one meal out at the restaurant. That's really nothing. If it were much more it really would start to take out of my savings, that's what I don't want to do at this point in my life," said Haley.
Haley's one of 160,161 North Carolinians who signed up on the health insurance market place during the first four months of open enrollment according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"The numbers still are pretty small that have signed up already. It's an aspiration," said Dr. Bill Roper, UNC Health Care CEO. "We hope it has a greater affect because people are better off having health insurance than not having it."
Health leaders say it's too early to tell the exact impact the affordable care act is having on hospitals across North Carolina. The hope is, emergency rooms will be less crowded as patients visit primary care doctors instead."
"The goal is to improve the health of our population and the health of our community and I think as more people get insurance, you'll be able to see the impact of that but I think it's still too early yet," said Dr. John Anderson, Duke Chief Medical Officer and Primary Care Physician.
Governor Pat McCrory is concerned the Affordable Care Act could hurt next year's state budget. McCrory said it's unclear how many North Carolinans will seek coverage through Medicaid instead of enrolling thought the insurance market place, which could mean less money for other sectors of government.
“Those people coming out of the wood work and signing up for Medicaid as opposed to health insurance could have severe ramifications on North Carolina's budget. And the dilemma is the forecasting for that is unknown at this time. And that's one reason we're delaying certain budgetary decisions," McCrory said.
Haley said having health care coverage has made a big difference.
"I can just go and get a check up at the doctor and it’s going to cost me almost nothing," said Haley.
Open enrollment for 2014 ends March 31. Those who don't have coverage may have to pay a penalty and will have to foot the bill for all of their own healthcare.