Miami Gardens, FL
Jorge F., 51, had never had to navigate safety net programs to pay his bills or depend on food stamps to buy groceries. He didn’t know how to get help after the COVID-19 crisis that cost him his job at a local events company.
“We were all let go right away when events were canceled,” Jorge says. He was able to eke out a living caring for an elderly patient. When that temp job ended, he filed for unemployment compensation and food stamps to get by.
“I don’t have health insurance, though and, even if I’m careful – wearing a mask and in quarantine– I’m scared I could get the virus,” Jorge says. “Where would I go?”
Jorge doesn’t qualify for Medicaid because Florida is one of just 12 states that have refused to expand the health care safety net program for childless adults. Only pregnant women, extremely low-income parents and persons with disabilities qualify for Medicaid.
Uninsured Florida residents depend on an underfunded public health care system, federally qualified health clinics, and charity hospitals that provide services for no or low cost, depending on income. Wait times for appointments are long, however, especially for specialists or surgeries and other services. And those with low incomes often can’t afford the co-pays and fees for basic services like blood work.
“I may have high blood pressure, or something else that if caught early can be managed. I just want to stay healthy so I can work
and support myself until retirement.”
“I’m at the age where I really need a check-up,” Jorge says. If he had health insurance, he would get an annual exam and screening tests that detect serious conditions early enough for successful treatment. “I may have high blood pressure, or something else that if caught early can be managed. I just want to stay healthy so I can work and support myself until retirement.”
Jorge is in the Florida “coverage gap,” earning too little to qualify for a subsidized plan from the insurance market established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but ineligible for Medicaid in a non-expansion state.
Enrollment for the ACA ends December 15, 2020 for 2021 health insurance plans. If Jorge is able to find a job that would bring his income above the poverty level, (currently $1,064/month for a single person) he would qualify for a subsidized, affordable health plan through the ACA health care marketplace.
Nearly 2 million Florida residents depend on the ACA for their health insurance and another 1.5 million would qualify for Medicaid if Florida lawmakers expanded the ACA to include low-income workers like Jorge. However, Florida has joined a lawsuit that, if successful before the U.S. Supreme Court could repeal the ACA. A repeal without a replacement health care insurance program could jeopardize the health care of millions. "I’m really hoping things get back to normal by December,” Jorge says. “We can’t just go on this way much longer.”
The Florida Health Justice Project, a nonprofit organization, recognizes that access to quality and affordable health care is a human right and engages in comprehensive advocacy to expand health care access and promote health equity for vulnerable Floridians.
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