• Miriam | Hialeah, FL


    Hialeah, FL


    As a breast cancer survivor, Miriam understands the importance of annual checkups. But now having lost her job and health insurance due to COVID-19's impact on the economy, Miriam worries about not being able to afford important routine medical care.

  • Until the COVID-19 pandemic collapsed South Florida’s economy, Miriam Ruiz had a stable job with health insurance. As a breast cancer survivor, having access to affordable health care was critical for her physical health and peace of mind.
    Miriam’s top concern: getting her annual mammograms to make sure the cancer hadn’t returned. As a single mom, the welfare of her family was at stake if her health failed.
    But with the collapse of the travel industry, her job at an airplane maintenance facility was eliminated. She lost both her income and her health care earlier this year.
    “I’m very scared,” Miriam says. “I’ve applied for assistance. I’ve looked for work. Nothing’s come through so far.” She hopes she’ll get seasonal temp work soon. At 54, she knows it’s hard to even get interviews.


    “I know I’m not a jovencita. Though I’m not a young girl anymore, I’m fully capable of working hard and giving 101 percent,” she says.

    “It’s a desperate situation. The politicians have forgotten us. We’re dying of hunger. We’re dying of the virus. It’s a humanitarian crisis.”

  • Miriam paid $300 out of pocket for a mammogram and still owes $700 in medical bills. She can’t afford to get her full physical or laboratory tests without health insurance. Her only option is a federally qualified health clinic that receives federal funds to treat uninsured patients at low or no cost, depending on income. But the public clinics often charge co-pays and fees that many low-income workers and unemployed individuals can’t afford.
    “I’m three months behind on my rent,” Miriam says. She’s exhausted her savings. Her family depends on food stamps for groceries. Since the federal stimulus supplemental payments ended, she receives just $400 in monthly unemployment insurance, and hasn’t been able to keep up with her bills.

    “I’ve applied for an infinite number of jobs but have yet to hear back,” Miriam says.
    Florida is one of 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid, leaving more than 1.5 million Floridians like Miriam, without access to affordable health care – in a pandemic. Low-income, working poor residents are often in the “coverage gap” – unable to qualify for Florida’s limited Medicaid program and too poor to qualify to purchase an Affordable Care Act health insurance policy on the federal marketplace. Without health insurance, low-wage service workers, many in essential jobs, are unable to address critical health concerns, and struggle to survive in pain and fear.
    “It’s a desperate situation,” Miriam says. “The politicians have forgotten us. We’re dying of hunger. We’re dying of the virus. It’s a humanitarian crisis.”


    *Stock Photo